A new call is being made for a brake to be put on housebuilding in and around Horsham.
Friday, 18th June 2021, 4:21 pm
Local residents say that no more houses should be built in the district until new schools, a hospital and GP surgeries are established.
They spoke out this week after developers revealed new proposals to built 100 houses on woodland in Storrington.
It’s the latest in a string of development proposals which include plans for 3,000 homes at Adversane, 3,500 at West Grinstead, 10,000 at Ifield and 700 on Rookwood Golf Course
Time for a halt to housebuilding in Horsham, say residents
A final planning decision is currently being awaited on whether 473 houses will be built on farmland at Roffey.
Meanwhile, work has started on building the first of 2,700 houses on land north of Horsham
Residents took to social media this week to vent their feelings following the latest bid to site housing on a Scots pine plantation off Rock Road, Storrington.
On the West Sussex County Times Facebook page, Julie Mitchell Webb said: “We have been crying out for a hospital for years and if Covid taught us anything it’s that a hospital is far more important than more homes!”
Anna Rita Massimo agreed. “There seems to be never-ending money to build new houses but a much needed hospital, with all these houses being built seems to be too much to ask.”
Jacqui Birch added: “I have no words left! Just shocking the amount of buildings going up. It’s just incredibly sad. Why does everyone want to live in the south east?”
Wayne Barr posted: “They seem hell bent on destroying Sussex. No more.
“When are they going to add more infrastructure such as schools, shops hospitals, etc. We have plenty of unaffordable houses in Storrington but greatly diminishing green spaces.”
Pat Varney said: “It’s a crying shame! We’re slowly losing every scrap of woodland and green space!”
Wendy Linfield agreed. “Stop building on our countryside! Enough is enough!”
Jo Graysmark said: “I think we are building far too much housing with no infrastructure to support it.
“With all the developments going on around the Horsham area we don’t need to build on every available green field.
“Sussex is a beautiful county but if we keep on building it’s just going to be awful.
Labour and campaigners warn the proposals are a ‘developers’ charter’
Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt – Morning Star
BORIS JOHNSON faces a clash with Tory backbench rebels over planning reforms that Labour has dubbed a “developers’ charter.”
In the wake of the Conservatives’ defeat last week in the Chesham and Amersham by-election, where the proposals were a major issue, many Tory MPs, including former prime minister Theresa May, warned the government not to ignore voters’ views.
To help meet their target of building 300,000 new homes a year in England, ministers claim that an overhaul of the planning system is needed to boost the construction of high-quality, sustainable homes.
But Labour and campaigners warn that the proposals would undermine local democracy by removing the members of public’s right to be heard in person and stripping elected planning committees of decisions on development.
Along with the HS2 railway line being built through Chesham and Amersham, fears of extensive construction in the surrounding Chilterns countryside were widely expressed by local residents during the by-election campaign.
Labour will try to pile pressure on the Prime Minister today by tabling a Commons motion calling for protections for communities who object to planning applications.
The opposition-day motion cannot bind the government, but Mr Johnson would be under pressure to rethink his plans if there was a sizeable Tory rebellion.
The PM conceded that his party had a disappointing night on Thursday as voters in the Buckinghamshire constituency — in Tory hands since its creation in 1974 — helped the Liberal Democrats overturn a 16,000 majority to win by more than 8,000 votes.
Shadow communities and local government secretary Steve Reed said: “Voters have shown Conservative MPs what they think of the developers’ charter.
“Those MPs now have the chance to join Labour in voting to kill off these perverse reforms once and for all.”
“When the legislation emerges, it needs to include safeguards for local people and strict controls over the quality of new housing developments, otherwise it is a dead duck” – Daily Telegraph Editorial – “Planning reforms require safeguards” – June 22 2021
We have a duty to build homes, says Jenrick
The Government has “a duty” to the next generation to build more homes, Robert Jenrick has said as he opposes Conservative MPs who want him to water down planning reforms. The Housing Secretary insisted it was only fair that ministers reform the system so young people could “aspire to own the keys to their own home”. The comments come after Tory MPs used a Commons debate to press the Government to dilute planning reforms that were blamed for last week’s shock defeat in the Amersham and Chesham by-election. Parliamentary Sketchwriter Michael Deacon watched “one of the most bizarre rants the Commons has heard in years”. Read Mr Jenrick’s article for us, in which he refers to “the belief that home ownership should be achievable for all who dream of it”. Matt finds inspiration in “nimbyism” for today’s cartoon.
DAILY TELEGRAPH LETTERS – JUNE 22 2021
SIR – If recent events in our village are a guide, the Tories will have a real fight on their hands to keep the support they have nearly always enjoyed.
Over two years ago, two locals, having been approached by a developer, applied for planning to build two very inappropriately large houses in their gardens. This was vociferously opposed by over 30 local residents, the entire nine-person planning committee of the parish council, the Horsham council planning department and West Sussex council highways authority.
The decision was appealed and nine months later an inspector from central planning in Bristol arrived, took a look at the site for 30 minutes, and approved the plans.
Our MP, who is close to Boris Johnson, now informs me that such “garden grabbing” won’t happen under the new definition of brownfield land in the proposed planning legislation, and that local authorities will be given powers to prevent it “where appropriate”. All a bit late for our village. We are not in quite the same political situation as Chesham and Amersham, but the protest could spread.
I could never vote for the wishy-washy Lib Dems, and the socialists have no chance, but I will absent myself from elections until this Government shows that levelling up will not in fact become levelling down.
The writing is on the wall.
West Chiltington, West Sussex
SIR – Following the Chesham and Amersham by-election, I am left wondering how we will ever build both the houses necessary to keep a lid on prices, and the major infrastructure needed to ensure Britain remains competitive in global markets.
It seems a cohort of voters who have benefited handsomely from affordable houses and infrastructure built after the Second World War are intent on voting for whoever opposes similar development needed by following generations. A lot of these will be people who received free university education, gain from the pensions triple-lock promise, and currently enjoy defined benefit pensions.
This country faces lots of problems, including long-term social care and climate change, and many of these are inter-generational. All raise questions, but I struggle to believe that voting Lib Dem will ever be the correct answer to any of them.
SIR – You ask how we can build houses without spoiling beauty spots. The answer is to force builders to incorporate beauty, or at least charm, into the homes they build.
In our village, our deservedly well-regarded local builder has done just that in two recent developments. All the houses, including the affordable ones, delight the eye.
Housing ministers would do well to visit and see that it can be done.
Brighstone, Isle of Wight
MALCOLM BENDER TO HORSHAM DISTRICT COUNCILLORS – JUNE 24 2021
Dear Horsham District Councillors,
West of Ifield
Further to my email dated 11th June 2021 (copied below), I would confirm that, as well as blatantly ignoring the Government’s NPPF policy framework regarding valued sporting assets, Homes England’s proposals clearly show no respect for the enormous social and historical value and design quality of Ifield Golf Course.
Ifield is not a farmland course to be casually abandoned in exchange for pieces of silver, it was designed and built nearly 100 years ago by golf club architects Fred Hawtree and John Henry Taylor, five times Open Champion!!
This was the same partnership that was employed for the re-modelling of Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
J H Taylor was made an honorary member of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews in 1949, and was made president of Royal Birkdale!
He went on to design more than 100 fabulous courses, including Aldeburgh Championship course and Royal Mid Surrey Golf Club.
It is a privilege to have the work of such a golfing giant in our midst and how bizarre would it be if Horsham District Council was the first Authority in the UK to permit the destruction of such a precious piece of golfing history.
Should we now perhaps consider demolishing Brighton Pavilion for example to make way for a block of flats?
Perhaps we could knock down Jack and Jill and put up a wind farm.
As a Horsham ratepayer I do not want my council to commit such an offence on my behalf.
Rusper Road, Ifield
Sent: 11 June 2021 17:57
Subject: RE: Horsham Draft Local Plan – West of Ifield
Further to my email dated 10th May 2021 to Mr Donnelly, I would stress again that the latest proposals for the West of Ifield site are not in compliance with the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, paragraph 97, clauses a) to c).
It would seem that Homes England are seeking to satisfy Clause c) by offering a muddy sports pitch in the River Mole floodplain in place of a thriving, historical golf course which has taken nearly 100 years to develop!.
NPPF para 97, Clause c) – allows for “alternative sports provision, the benefits of which clearly outweigh the loss of the current or former use”.
Ifield Golf Club provides physical exercise for at least 100 players per day of all ages, whilst a boggy sports pitch will struggle to provide a facility for 100 people per month, when it is not under flood water!
Photographs below show Ifield Golf Club car park and the Ifield playing field car parks on an average afternoon.
Ifield Golf Club Car Park – 11.06.21 Ifield Golf Club Car Park – 11.06.21 Rusper Road – Car Park – 11.06.21 Ifield Green – Car Park – 11.06.21
There can be no logical justification for substituting a bog for a cherished and thriving sports facility.
I understand the National Planning Policy Framework must be taken into account in preparing the development plan, and is a material consideration in planning decisions.
As your constituent, therefore, I would be obliged if you would confirm that you do not propose, on my behalf, to ignore the requirements of Government’s NPPF 97.
If NPPF 97 is correctly adhered to, then the golf course must be retained!
Quotation from Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – 03.06.21
“This Government is committed to protecting and enhancing the natural environment, as well as mitigating the effects of climate change.
This commitment is stated in the National Planning Policy Framework and supporting guidance, to which all local planning authorities should have regard when drawing up local plans”
The Framework expects lcal authorities to not only protect landscapes, soils and sites of biodiversity but go further by enhancing these valued surroundings.
The Framework also outlines that the character and beauty of the countryside, including trees and woodland, should be recognised in the planning of future development.
Strong protections are in place for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other designated land.
The Government will continue to apply policy and law as appropriate to prevent harm to wildlife-rich habitat, and to restrict development in open countryside.
The uplift in local housing needed within our biggest cities and urban centres in England will direct homes to where they are better served by infrastructure, and therefore protect our countryside.”
We must hope, and expect, that our Council will respect the Government’s design intent!!
However, it would appear from the Homes England’s presentation that there is little hope of this.
Furthermore, the Homes England proposal is worryingly naïve, or flawed.
There is little, or no, apparent awareness of the appalling damage that will be done to the open countryside west of Ifield, in direct contravention of the Government’s intentions.
Quoting HE as follows: —
All in all, this proposal flies in the face of the Government’s intentions as it fails to protect the landscape; it fails to recognize the character and beauty of the country including trees and woodland; it fails to prevent harm to wildlife-rich habitat and to restrict development in open countryside and it fails to direct homes to where they are better served by infrastructure, and therefore protect our countryside.
There are, in fact, no grounds on which the proposal to develop this site do not flout decent planning standards and the well-being of the people of west of Ifield and Rusper.
GEORGE FLETT TO HORSHAM DISTRICT COUNCIL
I refer to my letters of 18th May and 11th June 2021 regarding the monstrous development proposal by Homes which, from what I have seen so far, appears to be unchallenged by Horsham District Council with Homes England acting as if the development is a foregone conclusion. It is somewhat galling that I have had neither the courtesy of acknowledgement nor substantive replies to the issues raised.
It has come to my attention that on 10th September 2019 Rusper Parish Council submitted an application to Horsham District Council for Ifield Golf Club to be nominated as an ‘Asset of Community Value’, reference number CA19/09. This application was denied on 1st November 2019 by one Rob Jarvis, Head of Housing and Community. In making his decision Mr Jarvis considered internal consultation responses from:
Property and Facilities
Principal Planning Officer
Local Councillor for Colgate and & Rusper
and one external response
response from Montague Evans on behalf of the owners
His decision was based on eight reasons which I will not list here in their entirety as they are available in the Council’s records but I thought the following were of significant interest:
4.It was noted that the landowners questioned the number of members who use the club regularly, as stated on the application, and indicated that the number of members was much lower.
6.The application was submitted by the Parish Council, and it is unclear as to the level of support or use of the golf club by the local community.
8.The lease to the Trustees to the Golf Club ends in April 2022. The owners have confirmed that they will not be renewing the lease, it would therefore be unrealistic to think the asset will continue to benefit the community going forward.
Since it appears there was conflicting information at items 4 and 6, surely in fairness to both parties and in the interests of natural justice, should Mr Jarvis not have sought to clarify the position to get at the true numbers and usage? However it would appear no response or information was sought from the Trustees of Ifield Golf Club. By its very nature with several changes in elevations and natural contours, Ifield Golf Course can hardly be described as prime agricultural land. Mr Jarvis, who in spite of being titled ‘Head of Housing and Community’, would appear not to have queried why the lease of a thriving and popular golf club which had been in existence for almost 100 years was not being renewed nor for what purpose the land was now being sold. Instead he chose to find in favour of the landowners.
Is it a rather convenient circumstance that Homes England were able to start the first of their public consultations (I use the word in its loosest sense) in January 2020, just two months after Mr Jarvis’ adverse decision in respect of Rusper Parish Council and Ifield Golf Club? Apart from the need to set out a road map of places and dates for these presentations, identify and hire suitable premises beforehand, such presentations would have required considerable organisation and preparation well in advance. I attended one such venue at Gyll Manor, Rusper, and from the large scale maps/aerial photographs on both floor and wall, the numerous smaller wall presentations inviting comments, publicity material handed out at the entrance and numerous staff, it is apparent that the landowners were already embedded with Homes England, or vice versa, and the Ifield Golf Course was the sacrificial lamb to the slaughter. A quote from ‘Hamlet’ Act-1, Scene IV – ‘Something is rotten in the State of Denmark’ comes to mind.
On 23rd March 2020 Parker Dann, Chartered Town Planning Consultants, submitted a 4 page detailed report to Horsham District Council on behalf of Ifield Golf Club. Again this report, which clearly set out the importance and value of the club to the community, will be available in Council records, but I have taken the liberty of copying two of concluding paragraphs:
Strategic Policy 45 – Inclusive Communities, Health and Wellbeing Draft Plan paragraph 10.29 advises, “(d)evelopment proposals must take positive measures to create socially inclusive and adaptable environments to meet the long term needs of a range of occupiers and users and to ensure they are accessible to all members of the community. New development must be designed to achieve healthy, inclusive and safe places, which enable and support healthy lifestyles and address health and wellbeing needs. Development should address requirements stemming from … (t)he needs of an ageing population, particularly in terms of housing and health” The loss of Ifield Golf Club, set against a background of a growing elderly population, will undermine the aims of Strategic Policy 45. Recreational facilities whose main target market are those over 65 need to be retained, not lost to development. Policy 45 continues by stating that development needs to “protect and enhance existing community facilities, services and open spaces”. It is demonstrably clear that losing Ifield Golf Club to development would be in direct opposition to this policy
Strategic Policy 46 – Community Facilities and Uses Mirroring NPPF paragraph 97, Strategic policy 46 resists the loss of outdoor sports facilities unless appropriate replacement facilities are provided or there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the facility is no longer feasible. The inclusion of Ifield Golf Club in the strategic site is not compatible with Strategic Policy 46. Proper assessment cannot be left to the planning application stage, for the reasons stated earlier this letter. Golf course provision is not included in the table of local minimum standards of size for community spaces. Golf has a higher participation rate than bowls and yet bowls is included in the table. A robust metric for golf should be included in the table. Summary We consider that Potential Housing Allocation Options site ‘Land West of Crawley, Rusper’ does not accord with wider sustainable development principles that balance the need for economic growth with social and environmental requirements as identified in the NPPF. The strategic site ‘Land West of Crawley, Rusper’, would lead to the permanent loss of an established recreation and leisure facility, with a healthy membership and financial accounts. There has been no analysis of golf provision, nor has the developer approached the club to offer equivalent or better provision in a suitable location, as required by the NPPF. Ifield Golf Club objects to this strategic site being included in the draft Local Plan. It should be removed from the Local Plan as its development cannot meets social, environmental sustainability objectives, as required by the NPPF.
One can assume only that in submitting their report, Parker Dann were blissfully unaware of Mr Jarvis’ decision of 1st November 2019 and its knock on effect for the benefit of Homes England and greedy landowners.
On 1st March 2021 Horsham District Planning Department wrote that as part of the Local Plan evidence base, the Council had commissioned an update to the Sport, Open Space & Recreation Assessment. A separate district-wide Golf Supply & Demand Assessment was also being produced. This assessment had yet to be finalised. However, it would form part of the Local Plan evidence base. In addition, the promoters of any site involving a golf course would also be expected to prepare a course-specific assessment. The Local Plan’s compliance with the NPPF would be given full consideration as part of the Local Plan making process and subject to examination by an independent Inspector. The Planning Department later wrote that the Golf Supply & Demand Assessment was well progressed and being finalised. Those carrying out the assessment were provided with a copy of the representations submitted by Parker Dann (on behalf of Ifield Golf Club) to the Local Plan Reg 18 consultation in respect of Ifield Golf Course.
In my letter of 11th June 2021, I included information from the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, regarding the resurgence of golf in the United Kingdom and the benefits it provides to all and sundry. In spite of the current COVID restrictions the golfing membership of Ifield Golf Club is constantly rising, in addition to which there is a strong and active social membership involving non-golfing members of the community. Furthermore the course is popular with visiting golf societies/players and thus an economic asset to the area.
As far as I am aware Homes England have failed to offer an equivalent provision to make up for the loss of this very popular facility as they are required to do under the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework,paragraph 97, clauses a) to c). Clause c) allows for “alternative sports provision, the benefits of which clearly outweigh the loss of the current or former use”. In spite of this very specific requirement, Homes England are seeking to satisfy Clause c) by offering a muddy sports pitch in the River Mole flood plain. Ifield Golf Course is not some 9-hole ‘pitch and putt’ or ‘Footgolf’ facility to be lightly cast aside. Rather it is a historical golf course lovingly and carefully developed over almost a century, with a thriving membership and which provides necessary physical exercise for at least 100 players per day of all age groups and both sexes. Homes England are offering a boggy sports pitch which will struggle to provide a facility for 100 people per month – if it is not under flood water. How can this be a viable alternative for the benefit of both this and the wider community?
The weekend media had extensive coverage of the by-election result in Chesham & Amersham where a seat held by the Conservative party since 1974, and with a Conservative majority of 16,233 in the 2019 General Election, has fallen to the Liberal Democrats with a majority of 8,028. One of the main complaints from voters was the Prime Minister’s pledge to build hundreds of thousands of homes in the South and the free rein being given to developers in the Planning Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech. In my letter of 11th June 2021 I highlighted that in a national newspaper earlier that week there had been letters from residents in Essex, Glamorgan, Kent, Suffolk, Warwickshire and the West Midlands expressing concerns regarding unfettered developments in their areas without any real thought to infrastructure. I also reported on the fact that there are as many as a million building plots lying empty despite planning permission being granted and which could be used for housing construction ‘before the need to touch another blade of green grass for development.’ I understand that a group of about 90 Conservative MPs are seeking the Prime Minister to perform a U-turn on his housing pledge. Perhaps the Prime Minister and his Housing Minister the Rt. Honourable Jenrick MP will listen to the concerted voices of southern-based Members of Parliament like Sir Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, and his similarly minded colleagues, echoing the concerns of their many constituents over the destruction of their communities and countryside by unfettered development. Or would they listen rather to the siren songs of greedy developers with their cheap to build/expensive to buy developments devouring the countryside? How ironic would it be that, by their determination to bulldoze and concrete over Southern England, Homes England, the so-called ‘goverment’s housing accelerator’, could cause further wobbles in the so-called ‘Blue Wall’ as the electorate rebel against having their communities and countrysides destroyed all in the name of ‘progress’ – or rather profit for greedy developers.
I await your response with interest.
G S Flett
Dear Mr Flett,
Kindly note that the Officers and Members of Horsham District Council do not want to build 1,000’s of houses in the District.
The person responsible for this is the Housing Minister. His name is Robert Jenrick MP and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
The Housing Minister has INSTRUCTED us to build 30,000 houses over the next 25 years.
Your Officers and Members did not initiate this.
The Housing Minister is responsible for this. For HDC to ignore this will still result in multitudes of houses being constructed in the District, BUT with less controls over it.
HDC is very aware of your concerns over this massive house building in our lovely area.
We also, under Government’s Duty to Cooperate Protocol, have to build houses for Crawley, who have little spare land for new housing.
But ONLY the Housing Minister can stop it.
Therefore, you need to e-mail the Housing Minister of your objections as ONLY he can stop this onslaught on Horsham District.
Dear Councillor Donnelly
Thank you for your reply below. At the risk of appearing churlish it is word for word to an e-mail reply you sent previously on 29th April 2021, laying the blame at the door of the Housing Minister Robert Jenrick MP and that it was to him I should be directing my opposition to this development. I took your advice and my missives on the subject have been sent not only to him at Robert.Jenrick@communities.gov.uk , but also to George Eustace MP at DEFRA, Michael Gove MP and several other Members of Parliament who have spoken out publicly against the proposed changes in the Planning Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech.
Be that as it may, your reply has failed completely to address the issues in my letter of 22nd June 2021 namely:
- why did Horsham District Council not support the application by Rusper Parish Council to nominate Ifield Golf Club, which has been in use for almost a century, as an ‘Asset of Community Value’; and
why are Home England being allowed to destroy this facility and replace it with a muddy sports field on a flood plain contrary to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework?
While I did not receive a reply from the Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick MP, I did receive a response on 3rd June 2021 from Jonathan Blathwayt, Senior Planning Officer, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as follows:
With regard to the proposed allocation at Ifield, I understand this was identified in the previous Horsham Local Plan consultation. I am also aware that further consultation of the Horsham Local Plan Review is scheduled for pre-submission (Reg 19) consultation later in 2021. At that time, you will be able to respond to the council directly and make your concerns known formally. A wide section of the community should be proactively engaged so that Plans, as far as possible, reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area. The Plan will later undergo an independent examination in public by the Planning Inspectorate. The Inspector will consider all the comments made on the plan during the public consultations and those who have made representations can apply to speak at the examination. Only if the Inspector is confident the Plan is legally compliant and meets the tests of soundness as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) can it be recommended for adoption. The Government does not approve plans. The decision of whether to adopt a plan is made by the local planning authority following the recommendation from an independent inspector. The Government is clear that councils and their communities are best placed to take decisions on local planning matters in their area without unnecessary interference from central government.
I note his comment that only if the Inspector is confident the Plan is legally compliant and meets the tests of soundness as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) can it be recommended for adoption. Why then are Homes England, a government agency, being allowed to flout National Planning Policy in respect of Ifield Golf Club V. a muddy field on a flood plain?
Mr Blathwayt writes also that a wide section of the community of the community should be proactively engaged so that Plans, as far as possible reflect a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the area. You may have seen a recent from recent national press reports, including that in the ‘West Sussex County Times’ of 24th June 2021, that local residents are yet again up in arms about the proposed unfettered development in West Sussex and the destruction and distress this is causing local communities. It is fair to say that the Conservative national planning system is a diabolical mess and their reform proposals will actually make it worse. Is this not a time for Horsham District Council and other Councils to listen to the concerns of their residents, stand up for their local interests, and make it clear to central government that matters cannot continue as they are? Not to do so may prove punishing at the ballot box.
He continues that the Government is clear that councils and their communities are best placed to take decisions on local planning matters in their area without unnecessary interference from central government. In view of that it seems somewhat unfair to place all the blame on Robert Jenrick, the Housing Minister.
In your reply your state also that you have a duty to build houses for Crawley. As far as I am aware – and I am happy to be proved wrong – Crawley Borough Council neither want nor need this type of development. It will do nothing to help the supply of the type of accommodation that they do need, and will simply bring more people into the area from elsewhere, thus adding to the already existing problems with lack of infrastructure.
I look forward to your response with interest.
G S Flett
To Whom it May Concern;
A panelist on this show was the Rt. Honourable Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
In answer to a question about housing the Minister said there would be absolutely no new house building on Green Belt land without exceptional circumstances
How then are Homes England, described as ‘the government’s housing accelerator’ proposing to build 10,000 homes on Green Belt land in West Sussex in an area known as ‘West of Ifield’? In the first phase of this monstrous development 3,250 houses will be built on what is currently Ifield Golf Course and Ifield Brook Meadows, and the productive farming land in between.
Ifield Golf Club is almost 100 years old with a large number of original long standing oak trees and other native species. Several years ago the Forestry Commission planted some 8,000 trees all of which are well established. Most of these would have to be felled to meet the housing density. The existing farm fields are surrounded by mature hedgerows and interspersed with areas of woodland. Ifield Brook Meadows is prone to flooding which can only be made worse by the large scale felling of established trees and substituting these with houses, hard standing, roads etc. The areas under threat are already home to a wide variety of wildlife – deer, foxes, rabbits, small mammals, birds of prey, geese, owls, woodpeckers and kingfishers for example – and support a thriving variety of wild flowers. All of this would be lost and irreplaceable.
If the Minister does not consider this ‘Green Belt’ then what hope is there for the countryside?
G S Flett
FAO Councillor Clarke
(Copied to HDC Councillors)
Dear Councillor Clarke
I am writing to you in your capacity as the Leader of Horsham District Council.
The announcement by Homes England of their proposed development of the land West of Ifield, including Ifield Golf Course and Ifield Brook Meadows as well as productive farmland, has provoked much consternation locally, and generated much correspondence with Horsham District Council, Crawley Borough Council, Government Ministers and and Members of Parliament.
For my part I wrote first on 29th March 2020. Having attended a Homes England Consultation/Presentation early last year I came away less than impressed at the vagueness of the answers given by the Homes England staff whom, it appeared to me, had no real knowledge of this project and how it would impact on our rural community. Following on from their ‘Webinars’ and Commonplace community presentation website earlier this year I was even less than impressed with their plans so I wrote again on 11th April 2021. As time passed and other related matters came to light I wrote on 14th, 18th May, 11th and 22nd June and latterly 25th June 2021. This correspondence should all be available in Horsham District Council but I can supply copies if necessary.
You will appreciate that has meant a considerable amount of research over the past year and I am concerned regarding information which has been uncovered. Currently Horsham District Council has 48 Councillors and these are broken down into party lines as follows;
Liberal Democrats: 13
a substantial Conservative majority.
As well as the disruption to this immediate area, there has been considerable press coverage about unfettered development of cheap to build/expensive to buy estate houses despoiling the countryside of West Sussex, and with no infrastructure to match. The ‘West Sussex County Times’ of 24th June 2021 is a clear example of residents’ despair at the present situation which can only get worse if the Planning Bill in the Queen’s speech succeeds. This destruction of native woodlands and habitats is in complete contrast to the £500 million the Government is dedicating to trees and the aim is to treble native woodland creation rates by the end of the present Parliament. I may be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge the Government as such does not have any money of its own, rather this is all taxpayers’ money, of which I am one. Thus I am somewhat irritated by the Government’s largesse when at the same time it is seeking to destroy in this community the very thing it wants to establish elsewhere!!
Against this background I was absolutely astonished to learn that in spite of being elected members of Horsham District Council, those Councillors who are NOT Conservatives are excluded from details and discussions on the Local Plan. The shortlist of sites for the Local Plan has been chosen entirely between the Conservative group and Planning Officers. Opposition Councillors have input in the matter. If this is correct then there are 16 wards in Horsham District Council whose residents have no say in matters which may impact on their lives and communities, and not necessarily in a good way. This cannot be right or democratic in 2021. To misquote from Animal Farm ‘All Councillors are equal but some are more equal then others’. The only voice they may have is perhaps through their local Member of Parliament. I have to say that from personal experience, and those of neighbours, Jeremy Quinn MP has shown little or no public interest in the concerns of his constituents regarding this monstrous development proposal by Homes England. Having finally written me a somewhat bland reply – it might as well have been dictated by Robert Jenrick, Housing Minister – it was galling to note that he could not even send this to my correct address, even though that had been included on all my correspondence.
From my research I would opine Conservative Councillors, who are in the majority, represent mainly southern wards and I detect a strong feeling of support for the West of Ifield development from these rural Councillors to the south of Horsham town. It might be fair to say that they regard West of Ifield as practically Crawley and have no interest in the area. One could say ‘Out of sight. out of mind’. While that may appear a little harsh, it is based on personal experience of myself and neighbours. In recent years Martin Grant Homes were allowed to demolish seven perfectly sound and previously occupied houses to the front of our properties on Rusper Road to make way for a new development. Myself and several of my neighbours attended a council meeting at which the plan was to be discussed. It was apparent to us all that the vast majority of those Councillors present had little interest or even knowledge of this part of Horsham District Council’s catchment area. During the discussions only three of those present knew where the proposed site was, another Councillor describing it as a ‘brown field site’. No sooner had we recovered from the disruption of that development when Bovis Homes commenced a further development on agricultural land behind our houses. Interestingly the Planning Inspector deemed it not a suitable site for development, but it went ahead anyway.
From the above you will appreciate my concerns that we residents of Ifield are considered expendable in the eyes of the majority of the Conservative Councillors, with no input from Opposition members. This from the Council’s apparent desire to build houses which, to the best of my knowledge Crawley Borough Council neither want nor need, merely to satisfy the bulldozer that is Homes England.
I would return to the two questions raised in my letter of 22nd June 2021.
why did Horsham District Council not support the application by Rusper Parish Council to nominate Ifield Golf Club, which has been in use for almost a century, as an ‘Asset of Community Value’; and
why are Homes England being allowed to destroy this facility and replace it with a muddy sports field on a flood plain contrary to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework?
Finally. You may be aware that on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Any Questions’ on Friday 21 June 2021, the Rt Honourable Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government clearly stated that ‘There would be absolutely no new house building on Green Belt land without exceptional circumstances”. Is this now an opportune moment for Horsham District Council to make clear to Homes England that their plans for the land west of Ifield, and indeed other developers seeking to build in West Sussex, are in direct contradiction to the Minister’s comments now on public record?
I look forward to your response with interest.
G S Flett
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.
To Horsham District Council
From Peter Wakeham
You are now all aware of the health hazards of building housing close to an airport.
I understand that the Horsham District Local Plan (Regulation 19) is to be considered by the Cabinet on 15 July, 5.30pm and at an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council, 28th July 6.00pm
To protect Horsham district council from any possible future litigation from residents living in the proposed development, you should reject this.
If your rejection is overturned on appeal, Horsham district council could not be held to account.
The only way around this would be for you to insist that anyone buying a house must sign a disclaimer saying that they are buying this property with the full knowledge of the possible future health hazards of living this close to an airport.
Duty of Care.
I am writing regarding the plans to erect over 3000 homes and two schools by Homes England to the west of Ifield. Epidemiological studies have established a clear association between elevated levels of carbon monoxide and increased hospitalisation rates for respiratory and cardiovascular conditions for individuals within a 10km radius of an airport. Whilst this study was conducted in California [and other confounding factors such as higher urbanisation levels] may play a role in the cause-and-effect relationship, the external validity of the study is sound – and the findings are in line with prior research. The paper can be found at the below link –
The study suggests that policies may need to be reassessed worldwide to ensure the best possible health outcomes, and whilst it is already too late for people who currently live within the radius, it is not too late to prevent more people being subjected to these life altering conditions. Whilst I acknowledge the need for extra housing in the area, building so close to the airport seems careless and irresponsible, especially when considering that the government has a duty of care towards individuals. Alternative areas, such as in Horsham district, could be used to fulfil the housing quota without risking the health of the people who will ultimately reside in the houses.
To clarify, West of Ifield is not designated green belt land. One of the problems for Horsham District is that very little of our land is protected as ANOB, green belt, conservation area or other designation. It’s mostly farmland with no special protection.
(Worse still, under the new planning proposals in the Queens’ speech, it’s possible that Horsham’s District would be forced to zone as much as 85% of its entire land area for development.)
Lib Dem councillors on HDC have pushed to give green belt or other protected status to the land between Crawley and Horsham, because we’re concerned at coalescence of settlements (contrary to the HDPF). We have been told it can’t be done.
As for targets…the 10k that West of Ifield ultimately provides is not all included in this Local Plan. Only about a third of it can be counted because Homes England doesn’t have title to the rest. Nevertheless, approval for the first tranche effectively makes the other two thirds inevitable. And only the whole 10k can deliver the Western Relief Road, which is regarded as key infrastructure (although not by me).
Our target in the new Local Plan, which we’ll be asked to approve on July 28th, is likely to be at least 1200pa, which is 50% higher than the old Local Plan. This was worked out under what is known as the Standard Methodology. They don’t assess housing need directly, they just take house prices v local wages as a substitute. We have very high houses prices and a strong population growth (because of recent very rapid housebuilding).
Onto this we have to add Duty to Cooperate (DtC). For the last 10 years Horsham has provided 150 houses pa for Crawley’s unmet need. Mid Sussex was supposed to build 150 as well, but has never succeeded (because they never meet their own need).
HDC planners believe that Horsham’s new DtC requirement for Crawley will jump to 200pa, plus we have to contribute some to the south coast. Almost half of Horsham’s entire target will consist of DtC, whether new or historic.
Crawley is typical of urban centres which don’t have enough land to meet their targets. And Horsham is an extreme example of an area which ends up picking up extra targets from almost every side.
In my personal opinion, the whole West of Ifield area will ultimately be transferred altogether to Crawley Borough Council.
Cllr John Milne
PLANNING REFORMS – 3 ZONES
Growth areas – land that is suitable for ‘substantial development’ (as defined in policy). This may include the construction of new settlements, urban extension and redevelopment projects. Sites in this zone would receive automatic, outline approval for development. The focus is on certain types of infrastructure developments (including but not limited to new homes, hospitals and schools).
Renewal areas – land that is suitable for ‘development’ (with emphasis on smaller scale development in contrast to larger scale ‘growth’ areas). There would be a statutory presumption in favour of development in this zone if suitable for the given area (such as gentle densification, town centre development, small village expansion) with a focus largely toward urban and brownfield development.
Protected areas – Development on ‘protected areas’ (those designated as a result of their particular environmental and/or cultural characteristics) will continue to be restricted, as is the case with current policy, either nationally or locally defined. Areas such as the Green Belt, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Conservation Areas, Local Wildlife Sites, areas of significant flood risk and important areas of green space would continue to be subject to more stringent development controls.