A bid to turn a popular beauty spot into a local nature reserve would be ‘unwise’ because it might be needed for housing in the future, a Government agency has said.

An application to turn Ifield Brook Meadows into a nature reserve, which would give it greater protection from development, is being led by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and supported by Crawley Borough Council.

However, landowner Homes and Communities Agency [HCA] – rebranded as Homes England [HE] in 2018 – Ed – said the land could have a strategic use for development. An HCA spokeswoman said: “Whilst we appreciate the Wildlife Trust’s ambition to designate part of this site as a Local Nature Reserve, it would be unwise for us to make a decision on part of a site, the whole of which could have a more strategic role for housing in the future.

“We will, therefore, wait until Horsham District Council has completed its Core Strategy Review and we understand more about both local authorities’ needs and wishes for HCA land and the future use of the whole area.. Only then could we start to look at what might be needed and where would be the best location for it”. 

The meadow is an area of land on the western edge of Crawley, bounded by the Ifield Brook, with a small strip of woodland within Horsham District. A consortium of developers led by Welbeck Strategic Land has been lobbying Horsham to designate land west of Ifield for a 2,500-3,500 home development [Ifield Golf Club and surrounding areas – Ed] – though it says the meadows are not part of these plans.

Crawley Borough Council has been consistently against the plan which it says would put strain on local infrastructure . The council is due to consult on separate proposals to secure additional protection for the meadows [Local Green Space LGS – one step down from a Local Nature Reserve LNR – Ed].

Ifield campaigner Richard Symonds said: “I am delighted to hear Crawley Borough Council are supporting a bid to designate Ifield Brook Meadows a Local Nature Reserve [LNR]. Many within this ancient parish will also be hoping Crawley Borough Council achieves an alternative designation for this beauty spot in response to public concern”.




Peter Smith – Talk Ifield – May 30 2013

Crawley Borough Council [CBC] are supporting the Local Nature Reserve [LNR] at Ifield Brook Meadows. We’ve been lobbying for that, so very pleased to see it. It is also zoned to become a ‘Local Green Space’ [LGS] under the NPPF. See consultation by CBC to start on 3rd June [2013].


Richard W. Symonds – May 30 2013

Crawley Borough Council, to its great credit, has a solid Local Plan in place. That bodes well for Ifield Brook Meadows to be designated a Local Nature Reserve – but there are now very powerful forces at work to derail such plans. The need for constant vigilance is critical.



…Land to the West of Ifield [including land that make up part of the Ifield Brook Meadows – a designated Local Green Space and Local Wildlife site] has been under the control of Homes England and its predecessor bodies since it was acquired as part of the support towards the delivery of Crawley as a New Town.

We are aware that the current approach to fulfilling our obligations and communicating access rights has raised concerns for a number of local people who use the Ifield Brook Meadows and therefore have undertaken to review the signage strategy.

This review has only focused on the Meadows area and does not affect Homes England’s wider land holdings to the West of Ifield which remains in agricultural use and where access is restricted to designated Public Rights of Way…

Having listened to the concerns we have updated our signage strategy for the site so that Homes England can continue to fulfil its legal obligations while ensuring that the signage is more user-friendly and the experience overall is improved…

Why do you need the signs? Can’t you just remove them completely? 

As a responsible landowner and publicly accountable body, signage is required on the site to clarify the ownership of the land and prevent potential trespassing, unauthorised use of the site or prescriptive rights claims on the land…

Looking ahea, we are seeking to develop a positive legacy for Ifield Brook Meadows and wider area. This will enable a greater level of community ownership and local input into the maintenance and management of the site as part of a wider stewardship strategy for our plans for West of Ifield – which identify the retention and enhancement of Ifield Meadows as a key community and environmental asset. In previous consultations, we sought views on how the meadows should be managed and invited those who may be interested in managing the site to let us know.

Once there is more certainty around the future development proposals for West of Ifield and future stewardship options, it is our intention that there will be opportunities to further improve the access strategy for the local community and enable those responsible for managing the site in the future to review how best to meet any legal obligations and messaging to users.

What changes have been made and how does this affect the way in which I use Ifield Meadows?

…The new signage does not change the way in which people can use or access Ifield Meadows. The new signs make clear that people accessing the site should do so on the designated public rights of way (further information on the public right of way can be found on the West Sussex County Council i-map) but also allows the use of other permissive routes with the consent of Homes England. In doing so, people use the site at their own risk and Homes England reserves the right to withdraw this right at any time if needed – for example if there are concerns around safety, the need to undertake maintenance works or if there are instances of vandalism or anti-social misuse/behaviour…

If the land is in public ownership, why do you refer to it as Private Land?

While Homes England is a public body, Homes England is the legal owner of the land and the term ‘Private Land’ is an established legal term used to prevent prescriptive rights being acquired over land and ensures that any unauthorised use of land can be prevented.

[Note: Prescriptive rights, also known as easements by prescription, refer to rights that someone can gain over someone else’s land through continuous and uninterrupted use over a long period of time. These rights can include things like access to a pathway or use of a portion of the land for specific purposes, even if there is no formal agreement in place – ChatGPT]

Sept 2009 – Ancient paths used by walkers for 20 years or more [Evidence not submitted to West Sussex County Council (Footpaths) – for reasons unknown and unexplained despite a packed St Margaret’s Church]
The term ‘Private Land’ does not affect the current or ongoing use of the Ifield Brook Meadows. The updated wording seeks to make clear that while users are encouraged to use the Public Rights of Way, Homes England is allowing use of other permissive routes within the site, albeit at the sole risk of the individual user.



“There is no legal framework as such that necessitates signage, however, as a prudent landowner the signs are well advised to alert potential trespassers and others to the fact they are trespassing …We are reviewing the current signage across the site, and with our legal department’s advice, we will then confirm what changes, we are able to make. If the Agency is satisfied that as a dutiful landowner we are able to revise our signage strategy at this site, we will then take steps to remove/replace when it is possible and required…Homes England permitted Sussex Wildlife Trust to undertake a walkover in 2022 in relation to Brown Hairstreak

[Note: In 2012/13, an application to turn Ifield Brook Meadows into a Local Nature Reserve [LNR] was led by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and supported by Crawley Borough Council – see above ‘BEAUTY SPOT COULD BE NEEDED FOR HOUSING’ – MAY 30 2013 – CRAWLEY OBSERVER]

It would not be appropriate to allow Sussex Wildlife Trust to undertake a full ecological survey in parallel as there would be a risk of duplicating work, risk that work is not undertaken by qualified ecologists and risk of conflating different survey information which could impact on the accuracy of both surveys. It should be noted that the surveys are being undertaken in line with approved industry guidance and best practice and where necessary have been discussed with the relevant statutory bodies, therefore its findings would not be expected to be significantly different from other qualified ecologists undertaking similar surveys.

[Questions asked of Homes England’s Jason Hobbs – but not addressed:

1. Was a retired Ifield resident refused permission to use her metal detector in Ifield Brook Meadows?

2. Was Peter Lamb told by Homes England’s Chief Executive Officer spokesperson that, regarding the water neutrality issue, Homes England will “build it anyway”?

3. Why were the wooden bridges accessing “probably the most beautiful short riverbank walk in Sussex” destroyed?

4. Were Crawley Borough Council refused permission to put up Wildlife/Nature Information Boards in Ifield Brook Meadows Local Green Space [LGS] – similar to the Wildlife/Nature Boards in Willoughby Fields Local Nature Reserve [LNR]?