JUNE 21 2024 – IFIELD BROOK MEADOWS – WEST OF IFIELD: A REPLY BACK FROM THE PLANNING POLICY MANAGER OF CRAWLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

Ifield Brook Meadows – West of Ifield [within Crawley Borough Council boundary]

Dear Mr. Symonds,

Many thanks for your email expressing interest in Ifield Brook Meadows.

Please see my responses to your queries below. I have addressed each question in turn, in the red text.

1. Is Ifield Brook Meadows Public or Private Land ? 

Homes England clearly state ‘Private Land’ on their countless, ugly, public-funded signs erected all around this beautiful area (see below), but the community require them to prove it – especially as there is an increasing concern this public body is not ‘fit for purpose’ West of Ifield.

 

[Reply in red] The land which includes Ifield Brook Meadows is owned by Homes England. The status of this site should be clarified with Homes England directly.

Would it be possible for me to provide Homes England with your contact details, so they are able to respond to your queries regarding the status of the site and the signs and footpath (particularly in relation to the additional questions sent through in your subsequent email)?

Please let me know if this would be okay.

2. Are Homes England required to submit an outline planning application to CBC for any changes made to Ifield Brook Meadows – as part of their wider ‘West of Ifield’ application – given Homes England’s masterplan for the West of Ifield development require cycle paths, footpaths etc across this Local Wildlife Site and Local Green Space. 

The local community are extremely concerned about the damaging impacts on this community asset – which have already been listed in the comments made in the Planning Inspector’s Regulation 19 Consultation.

The community has good reason to be concerned about the future of Ifield Brook Meadows and beyond [eg the ancient Parish of Ifield], based on Homes England’s staggering disregard for its recreational and health benefits over the past 25 years, and their total disregard for its local heritage, archaeology, ecology, wildlife and biodiversity.

 

[Reply in red] Whether or not a planning application is made to Crawley Borough Council (CBC) will depend on whether any of the proposed development extends into Crawley’s administrative boundaries. This is currently unknown as the allocation is currently still draft in the Horsham District Local Plan (HDLP) Regulation 19 and details of a full and final outline application masterplan are yet to be provided by Homes England. The proposals referenced in the HDLP and previously consulted on publicly by Homes England do not include any proposals for physical development within Crawley’s boundaries.

CBC has been clear to both Horsham District Council (HDC), in its representations to the HDLP Consultations, and Homes England, that it strongly opposes the West of Ifield proposals from Homes England and the allocation of the West of Ifield site in the HDLP.

The Crawley Borough Local Plan designates Ifield Brook Meadows as a Local Green Space and a Local Wildlife Site and the Crawley Local Plan policies provide significant protection to Ifield Brook Meadows against development, should a future planning application from Homes England include proposals for development there within Crawley’s administrative boundaries.

3. When is Homes England’s planning application to CBC expected? Will it coordinate with their hybrid application they have said will be submitted in 2024?

[Reply in red] As above, at this point CBC does not know whether a planning application directly to CBC will be required. It will depend on whether Homes England’s planning application includes proposals for any physical development on Ifield Brook Meadows.

CBC will be a statutory consultee in relation to any planning application submitted to HDC for land at West of Ifield where this doesn’t encroach on land within CBC’s administrative boundaries.

4. What is CBC doing to prepare for an Impact Assessment, eg ecological surveys, resident consultation, amenity surveys, etc?

[Reply in red] CBC continues to strongly advocate with HDC and Homes England for genuine engagement with the Crawley residents as part of these processes and requires evidence to be provided in relation to the impacts of any proposed development upon the borough – including character, environmental and impact on Crawley’s infrastructure, services and facilities. Once this evidence is provided, it will be scrutinised against CBC’s own evidence gathered for its Local Plan.

Critically, should any future strategic development adjacent to Crawley be granted planning permission by neighbouring authorities or by the government’s Planning Inspectorate on appeal, CBC’s emerging Local Plan: Local Plan Modifications Consultation February 2024_1.pdf (crawley.gov.uk)*  is clear in paragraphs 12.17-12.23 that any such development should protect the setting of Crawley’s existing neighbourhoods at the edge of the countryside (paragraph 12.19). Paragraph 12.23(ix b) requires an assessment of the impact of the development on the landscape character, setting and heritage of the area, and the setting of Crawley’s neighbourhoods, also requiring development to be planned, not only to ensure the key landscape features, character areas, areas of tranquillity and settings are protected but also to ensure the way they can be experienced is enhanced.

(*please note, this link is to the Modifications Version of the Local Plan, which is the most recently published version. It will be superseded by the final version once this is progressing through the reporting process to its eventual adoption.)

However, CBC is unable to determine any planning application for land outside its administrative area. CBC has no decision-making powers for land on planning applications for land outside its boundaries – the decision-making powers rest solely with the corresponding Local Planning Authority for the West of Ifield site which is Horsham DC (or with the government’s Planning Inspectorate if HDC were to refuse the application and it went to appeal).

It is worth highlighting that any development proposals within Crawley’s administrative boundaries will be considered against the emerging Local Plan policies. Key relevant sections of the Local Plan which uphold the ongoing protection of Ifield Brook Meadows as a Local Green Space / Local Wildlife site include:

·       Page 221, Strategic Policy GI4: Local Green Space Ifield Brook Meadows and Rusper Road Playing Field; “This area is designated due to its value to the local community and local significance in its function as an area for enjoyment of recreation, visual amenity, tranquillity, wildlife, heritage, and highly accessible countryside close to the urban area. The above area will be safeguarded from development other than in very special circumstances or where the development is to enhance Local Green Space functions, for example, through improvements to access, recreation and wildlife”.

·       Paragraph 14.48 of the Reasoned Justification to Policy GI4 “Public consultations have consistently shown that Ifield Brook Meadows and Rusper Road Playing Fields should be protected because of their special value to the local community. The Meadows are an important site of nature conservation with distinctive vegetation and wildlife. The northern part of the Meadows is of historic importance, forming part of the Ifield Village Conservation Area, contributing to the setting of the village and church. These elements make this area unique and local in character”.

·       Paragraph 14.49 of the Reasoned Justification to Policy GI4 “The presumption in favour of sustainable development does not apply to Local Green Spaces. Proposals affecting the designated Local Green Space should be consistent with national Green Belt Policy”.

·       Paragraph 17.24 of the Reasoned Justification to Policy ST4 (page 260-261) “New highways crossing the Ifield Brook Meadows and Rusper Road Playing Fields Local Green Space would be wholly unacceptable, given the impact this would have on ancient woodland, the biodiversity in the LWS and LNR, the character of Ifield Village Conservation Area, the flood plain and the recreational use of the Local Green Space”.

·       Policies GI1: Green Infrastructure (pages 208-212) and GI2: Biodiversity Sites (pages 212-216) further protect the nature conservation and wildlife value of the Ifield Brook Meadows. Please note, protected species and habitats are covered by other legislation which would also need to be taken into account and addressed.

·       In addition, the designation of the Ifield Brooks Meadows area is overseen by an “independent panel of experts” as per paragraph 14.27 on page 215 of the Local Plan: These are identified, designated and reviewed by an independent panel of experts, through the Sussex Local Wildlife Sites Initiative.

 

I trust the above provides some clarity on the current situation, insofar as CBC is currently aware and engaged in the progression of Homes England’s proposals with HDC. CBC will continue to engage and participate in the statutory planning processes, including as part of the HDLP examination (which we believe will take place later this year following the HDLP’s anticipated submission to the Secretary of State).

Kind Regards

Elizabeth Brigden

Planning Policy Manager

Crawley Borough Council

www.crawley.gov.uk/planning

www.crawley.gov.uk/planning/planning-policy/local-plan