MAY 5 2021 – THE RUSPER PARISH COUNCIL REJECTION OF HOMES ENGLAND ‘WEST OF IFIELD’ MASTERPLAN + LETTER TO THE HOUSING MINISTER FROM THE LEADER OF CRAWLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

 

Response to Homes England “Consultation” on “West of Ifield” Proposals from Rusper Parish Council | Rusper Parish Council (rusper-pc.org.uk)

 

Response to Homes England “Consultation” on “West of Ifield” Proposals from Rusper Parish Council

Rusper Parish Council STRONGLY OBJECTS to this proposal.

The site description states that this is “adjacent to the busy road network”, but in fact this area is not connected to any A or B roads and all exits from this site would be onto unclassified neighbourhood roads in Crawley, or narrow country lanes in Rusper. A more valid description of the proposed site would be:
This is an area of open countryside and farmland with ancient hedgerows and woods. A principle part of the site is an existing golf course, which provides recreation and exercise amenity to the local people. The rest of the site provides important flood protection for areas further downstream on the River Mole, in addition to the farming use for food production and green space to improve the quality of the environment.

The land shown on the plan is only a part of the overall proposal from Homes England, so this proposal is highly misleading. So too are the labels for “The Meadows” and “Hillside and Woodlands”, which are actually areas of intense housing. It has been suggested that the area shown would provide around 3,250 houses and that Homes England would only provide the infrastructure requirements to support the development if the larger area through to Faygate and Lambs Green was included and 10,000 houses built. This would be equivalent to destroying almost half of the countryside in Rusper Parish.

With the already planned population increase across North West Sussex and East Surrey, the demand and pressure on an already overloaded East Surrey hospital completely contradicts what we as a nation have been asked to do for the past 12 months, that is to protect the NHS. Taking the population per dwelling in Horsham as 2.3, the West of Ifield development will cause an increase of 23,000 people to East Surrey’s catchment. In addition to the increased pressure on East Surrey Hospital, with there being no plans to increase hospital provision in the area, the combined impact of the North Horsham and West of Ifield developments essentially “boxes in” Rusper village. It will therefore be impossible for the NHS to meet the government directive that an ambulance shall reach a casualty within 8 minutes.

The proposals talk of increasing biodiversity, but it is unclear how this can be possible in any sense. The current area along Ifield Brook and the golf course provides a rich wildlife habitat with much diversity. The farm land is not intensively managed, so the fields and hedgerows are also a rich wildlife habitat with as wide a range of flora and fauna that could be expected for this area. It is unclear how building 3,250 houses on the area shown on the plan could be anything short of an environmental disaster for this area and would significantly reduce biodiversity. The area also has many ancient hedgerows and ancient woodland, and development on this scale will have a major impact on the wildlife that is dependent on these. The Dasgupta Review on The Economics of Biodiversity (a review, published in February 2021, which was commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer) puts biodiversity at its core and provides the compass that we urgently need; it shows that Governments almost everywhere exacerbate the environmental problems by paying people more to exploit Nature rather than to protect it, and to prioritise unsustainable economic activities.

Ifield Golf Course would form the start of this development, with the consequential loss of an important local amenity. This is contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework – Paragraph 97 as no alternative equivalent provision is identified and the current golfing facility is clearly not surplus to requirements. This area not only provides a space for people to exercise while playing golf, but also for local residents to walk and enjoy the rural setting. Add to that the value of this open and maintained environment for wildlife, and the overall impact for existing local communities is significant.

Viability discussions state “At this stage, it is considered that there is potential for the development on this site to be viable”, but the latest Horsham District Council SHELAA 2018 Housing Report shows all evaluated sites in this area as “Not Currently Developable”. It is not clear how the conclusions of these detailed studies have changed. We would refer Homes England to the HDC SHELAA reports where, when considering this proposal, it states “There are a number of constraints which impact the suitability and achievability of development on this site. This includes impacts on flooding, and the setting of Ifield Conservation area. The northern part of the site is within the Gatwick Airport Safeguarding area and noise contours. There are also a number of infrastructure issues which would need to be addressed, including sewerage and impacts on the existing road infrastructure” and it is contrary to policies 1, 4 and 26 of the HDPF.

The proposal states the development quality provides “A clear vision for the site has been identified, based on Garden Community Design Principles”. However, this is completely untrue, as only a rough outline of the area has been provided, with no densities or facilities.

Homes England state, “To manage additional cars and construction vehicles on the local road network, the first phase of the Crawley Western Link will be built alongside the first homes and first part of the neighbourhood centre”. This suggestion is farcical, as the new road will still spill out onto the existing congested network, with no relief for local residents. There is no clear indication of how traffic will be managed and the suggested link road is currently a road to nowhere, with no identified exit point onto the wider major road network. The average number of vehicles per dwelling in the UK is 1.3, therefore this West of Ifield development would see a potential increase of 13,000 vehicles with two options when exiting the development:
•Turn West towards Rusper Village into a tight and congested road network of country lanes, which is already under severe pressure and is over used. It is yet to be seen what impact the North Horsham Development will have and to make judgement before that is completed is impossible: desk top studies simply don’t produce reliable data;
•Turn East into Ifield, which again, is a traffic nightmare. It can take over 32 minutes to travel the 2.2 miles from Ifield Golf Club to Crawley Hospital: it is just too far to walk and it is too dangerous to cycle given the the number of vehicles, even before this development starts.

There is no justification for a development of this scale anywhere in the district and the government’s own growth figures and housing requirements prove that this development should not be considered. The proposals from Homes England make no consideration for the probable changes following the global Covid pandemic and our trading position with Europe. Homes England talks of “Building on the successful founding principles of Crawley’s neighbourhoods”, but ignores the impact on the Parish of Rusper, where it is proposing that this development be built. In fact the founding principles for Crawley New Town identified the surrounding countryside as an important green belt setting for the town, a vision akin to Horsham’s Green Space Strategy, which identifies that the countryside makes for a better quality of life. Crawley’s original vision also envisioned a town of 9 neighbourhoods and it has already exceeded 14. The original plans for Crawley included for almost all houses to be within 1¼ miles of the town centre and the road pattern was designed to discourage through traffic in the neighbourhoods, yet this new “relief” road, would be right through the new development.

The UK government declared a Climate Emergency in May 2019 and this greenfield development would betray any commitment to reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. It would seem that Homes England is trying to achieve the maximum revenue from land it owns in this area, as opposed to consideration of the needs of the local community and the need to maintain the green environment to help reduce global warming. With a fixed amount of land (we live on an island), allocating greenfield land for housing will just lead to a food crisis and environmental collapse. More houses also means more traffic and more pollution. Thus a viable alternative needs to be found. Sadly, there is no simple silver bullet for this problem and we all need to start making hard choices.
Another critical factor against this development should be the coalescence of Horsham and Crawley. Taken with the already approved strategic sites of North Horsham and Kilnwood Vale, this proposal to develop the entire East of Rusper would inevitably lead to Crawley and Horsham becoming one large metropolis.

This proposal from Homes England flies in the face of every policy in the Rusper Neighbourhood Plan, rendering that plan useless and making a mockery of the Government’s localism policies.

 

 

WEST OF IFIELD: LEADER OF CRAWLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL SENDS LETTER TO SECRETARY OF STATE FOR HOUSING CONCERNING PLANS FOR 10,000 HOUSES – WEST SUSSEX COUNTY TIMES – MAY 7 2021 [ONLINE]

 

 

Peter Lamb – Leader of Crawley Borough Council

Dear Mr Jenrick,

As you may or may not be aware, Homes England—the Government’s housing delivery agency, are looking to build up to 10,000 houses immediately adjacent to our current urban area: West of Ifield.

Having reviewed these plans, we are concerned that the proposed development will cause significant ecological harm to our area, stretch the town’s infrastructure beyond what it is sustainable, and ultimately fail to deliver housing the town’s residents can actually afford.

In addition, the proposed housing would be constructed beneath the flightpath of the world’s busiest single-runway airport, in a floodplain, and assumes a level of employment need based on when Crawley had the highest density of jobs in the country, something which you will be aware from my past-correspondence is certainly no longer true.

While this development would see Crawley, the largest population centre in the county, increase its size by around a quarter, due to the land falling within the boundaries of Horsham District Council current planning rules means we will play no decision-making role around this proposal.

This is clearly a breach of natural justice, one which under current planning rules with a private developer we would just be forced to accept. Fortunately, Homes England are a public body and ultimately report to you, which is why I am writing to you now to raise a number of questions which have arisen over recent months:

1)      The Chair of Horsham District Council’s Planning Committee has stated that: ‘The Housing Minister has INSTRUCTED us to build 30,000 houses over the next 25 years’, as the Housing Minister reports to you, can you confirm whether or not this is the case and if this instruction would require the West of Ifield development to be included within the council’s Local Plan?

2)      Homes England report to the Government, have their targets set by the Government, and reportedly the development of the West of Ifield site has already been taken into account in their delivery targets. Could you confirm that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are not pushing the development of the West of Ifield and would not provide no opposition should Homes England decide to not proceed with their current plans for the site?

3)      The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, grants Homes England the status of a planning authority where the Secretary of State has granted a designation order. Can you confirm that in the event that Horsham District Council do not grant planning permission for the development of land West of Ifield, no designation order will be granted for this site?

4)      Homes England is the successor body of a long line of development agencies, stretching back to the original New Town Development Corporations. A number of these agencies had their own planning powers and comments from a past Chief Executive of Homes England have suggested that some of these powers might be used in the future to bring forward development where councils would not. In the event that they attempted to use these powers West of Ifield, could the Secretary of State confirm that he would intervene either directly with Homes England, such as through the use of his call-in power?

5)      As previously outlined, in the event that Horsham District Council do grant permission for the development of West of Ifield, Crawley Borough Council and consequently Crawley residents will have no decision-making power over plans which will inevitably have a significant impact on the town’s future and which are allegedly about meeting the town’s needs. Will you intervene to ensure that a principal authority review can be carried out before any development takes place, ensuring that the local residents can decide for themselves how their town will develop by making Crawley Borough Council the decision-making authority?

6)      If a principal authority is not possible within these timescales, as Homes England are a body reporting to your Ministry, will you require Homes England to pay the same heed to the requirements set out by Crawley Borough Council as if we were ourselves the local planning authority?

7)      Alternatively, will you require that Homes England develop the site in a way which meets the bare minimum requirements identified to actually deliver a viable new community without substantially negatively impacting the town’s existing population, these being:

•      That at least 40% of the housing is affordable (with a 70% social housing and 30% intermediate tenure mix)
•      That there is the provision of a Western relief road, running all the way from the A264 to a junction at the North of the Manor Royal Business Park
•      That the development follows the New Town’s ‘Neighbourhood Principal’ upon which Crawley was built, with services provided upfront and large quantities of urban green space
•      That everything possible is done to minimise the environmental impact of any development, including the risk of flooding to adjacent areas

8)      Lastly, if the development comes forward within the current boundaries, council tax and other forms of funding for providing services will be paid to Horsham District Council. Due to the development’s location the majority of the services accessed by residents will be paid for by Crawley Borough Council. This not only deprives those living West of Ifield with democratic input into the way their services are run, it will result in the borough suffering a significant increase in pressure on its services without the funding to improve capacity. At peak Crawley Borough Council had net revenue expenditure of £27m, cuts by this Government have forced our expenditure down to £13m, there is simply no way we can accommodate a 25% increase in demand within our current funding and still maintain local services at anything like their current level. In the event the development does go ahead and a principal area review is not possible, does the Secretary of State plan to make any changes to the level of financial support the council receives to adapt to the pressures brought on by an agency reporting to him?

Yours sincerely,


Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council

 

 

West of Ifield: Leader of Crawley Borough Council sends letter to Secretary of State for Housing concerning plans for 10,000 houses

The Leader of Crawley Borough Council has sent a letter to Secretary of State of State for Housing Robert Jenrick concerning plans for 10,000 houses West of Ifield.

By Mark Dunford

Friday, 7th May 2021, 9:30 am

Crawley Observer

In the letter, Cllr Peter Lamb has said the proposed development ‘will cause significant ecological harm to our area, stretch the town’s infrastructure beyond what it is sustainable, and ultimately fail to deliver housing the town’s residents can actually afford’.

Here is Mr Lamb’s letter in full.

Dear Mr Jenrick,

As you may or may not be aware, Homes England—the Government’s housing delivery agency, are looking to build up to 10,000 houses immediately adjacent to our current urban area: West of Ifield.

Having reviewed these plans, we are concerned that the proposed development will cause significant ecological harm to our area, stretch the town’s infrastructure beyond what it is sustainable, and ultimately fail to deliver housing the town’s residents can actually afford.

In addition, the proposed housing would be constructed beneath the flightpath of the world’s busiest single-runway airport, in a floodplain, and assumes a level of employment need based on when Crawley had the highest density of jobs in the country, something which you will be aware from my past-correspondence is certainly no longer true.

While this development would see Crawley, the largest population centre in the county, increase its size by around a quarter, due to the land falling within the boundaries of Horsham District Council current planning rules means we will play no decision-making role around this proposal.

This is clearly a breach of natural justice, one which under current planning rules with a private developer we would just be forced to accept. Fortunately, Homes England are a public body and ultimately report to you, which is why I am writing to you now to raise a number of questions which have arisen over recent months:

1) The Chair of Horsham District Council’s Planning Committee has stated that: ‘The Housing Minister has INSTRUCTED us to build 30,000 houses over the next 25 years’, as the Housing Minister reports to you, can you confirm whether or not this is the case and if this instruction would require the West of Ifield development to be included within the council’s Local Plan?

2) Homes England report to the Government, have their targets set by the Government, and reportedly the development of the West of Ifield site has already been taken into account in their delivery targets. Could you confirm that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are not pushing the development of the West of Ifield and would not provide no opposition should Homes England decide to not proceed with their current plans for the site?

3) The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, grants Homes England the status of a planning authority where the Secretary of State has granted a designation order. Can you confirm that in the event that Horsham District Council do not grant planning permission for the development of land West of Ifield, no designation order will be granted for this site?

4) Homes England is the successor body of a long line of development agencies, stretching back to the original New Town Development Corporations. A number of these agencies had their own planning powers and comments from a past Chief Executive of Homes England have suggested that some of these powers might be used in the future to bring forward development where councils would not. In the event that they attempted to use these powers West of Ifield, could the Secretary of State confirm that he would intervene either directly with Homes England, such as through the use of his call-in power?

5) As previously outlined, in the event that Horsham District Council do grant permission for the development of West of Ifield, Crawley Borough Council and consequently Crawley residents will have no decision-making power over plans which will inevitably have a significant impact on the town’s future and which are allegedly about meeting the town’s needs. Will you intervene to ensure that a principal authority review can be carried out before any development takes place, ensuring that the local residents can decide for themselves how their town will develop by making Crawley Borough Council the decision-making authority?

6) If a principal authority is not possible within these timescales, as Homes England are a body reporting to your Ministry, will you require Homes England to pay the same heed to the requirements set out by Crawley Borough Council as if we were ourselves the local planning authority?

7) Alternatively, will you require that Homes England develop the site in a way which meets the bare minimum requirements identified to actually deliver a viable new community without substantially negatively impacting the town’s existing population, these being:

• That at least 40% of the housing is affordable (with a 70% social housing and 30% intermediate tenure mix)

• That there is the provision of a Western relief road, running all the way from the A264 to a junction at the North of the Manor Royal Business Park

• That the development follows the New Town’s ‘Neighbourhood Principal’ upon which Crawley was built, with services provided upfront and large quantities of urban green space

• That everything possible is done to minimise the environmental impact of any development, including the risk of flooding to adjacent areas

8) Lastly, if the development comes forward within the current boundaries, council tax and other forms of funding for providing services will be paid to Horsham District Council. Due to the development’s location the majority of the services accessed by residents will be paid for by Crawley Borough Council. This not only deprives those living West of Ifield with democratic input into the way their services are run, it will result in the borough suffering a significant increase in pressure on its services without the funding to improve capacity. At peak Crawley Borough Council had net revenue expenditure of £27m, cuts by this Government have forced our expenditure down to £13m, there is simply no way we can accommodate a 25% increase in demand within our current funding and still maintain local services at anything like their current level. In the event the development does go ahead and a principal area review is not possible, does the Secretary of State plan to make any changes to the level of financial support the council receives to adapt to the pressures brought on by an agency reporting to him?

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council