Another ‘NAIL IN THE COFFIN’ for Local Democracy

Countryside campaigners are united in fury at the news that the Mid Sussex District Plan has been rejected on a technicality- leaving the door open to speculative property developers who are determined to build on green field sites.

The plan has been thrown back at the Council by a government Inspector, who ruled that the District had failed in its Duty to Cooperate with neighbouring councils. The local tax payers will now have to foot the bill for a new plan and the District remains vulnerable to a tide of property developers, hoping to cash in on what’s been dubbed a building ‘free for all’.

“This is a sad day for the people of Mid Sussex,” said Michael Brown from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Sussex) “It paralyses the district planning process for another year or more and it is a further nail in the already well-studded coffin of local democracy.”

Will more land be lost to housing? Mid Sussex Times
Will more land be lost to housing? Mid Sussex Times

The decision, which follows a controversial meeting in Haywards Heath last month, will affect everyone living in Mid Sussex and local businesses, including hundreds of local people who have been campaigning to protect the district’s countryside.

“More green fields will be seen by developers as honey pots and MSDC will be bombarded with more applications,” says John Clayton who is a member of the Penland Farm Action Group. “The Character of Mid Sussex will be adversely changed forever. What a legacy for our local council and Coalition Government!”

[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]Localism is a dirty word and is utterly meaningless…[/quote] “It is outrageous,” agrees a furious Ian Credland, who is campaigning to save Ham Fields between Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks. “It is the age old story- money is power and the electorate are ultimately ignored but forced to pay through their taxes. Localism is a dirty word and is utterly meaningless to the man in the street as his views seem to count for nothing.”

The Inspector had been due to make a decision on the plan last month, but had delayed to gather more information from neighbouring councils.

Nick Herbert MP comments:[button link=”” size=”large” style=”info” bg_color=”#ffffff” text=”dark” window=”yes”]A Test of Faith In Localism[/button]
The CPRE’s Michael Brown says that, with this in mind, the outcome is particularly disappointing:

“It is all the more disappointing given that a number of neighbouring authorities never raised the lack of cooperation issue,” he says, “And that those who did, have all accepted that Mid Sussex does not have spare capacity to build houses here to meet their own housing needs.”

The news will be welcomed by the many property companies hoping to force the Council to increase the number of houses that the plan will allow to be built in the area.  But Anthony Watts Williams who is founder of the Mayfield new town protest group, LAMBS, has warned they will not get an easy ride.

“We are not giving up that easily,” he says, “We are in it for the long term. All it means is that we will have to re-group, we’ll have to look at things going forward and we will have to make sure that when the plan comes up for re-examination next year, we will be sitting around that table.”

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”] The Inspector’s conclusion that MSDC has failed properly to co-operate now appears on the MSDC website here.[/box]

MSDC has issued a short statement in which Garry Wall is quoted as saying:

“Many residents left the last hearing feeling the odds were stacked against the District Council in its attempt to agree a local plan in the face of opposition from those with vested interests, such as developers.”


Anthony Watts Williams on the Inspector’s decision to reject the Mid Sussex Plan:

Interview with Anthony Watts Williams of LAMBS.[hr]
Parliamentary Debate 3rd December 2013 House of Commons:
You can see a transcript of the debate on Hansard.
Comments on Mayfied Parliamentary Debate by Mr Soames and Mr Herbert:

Interview with Nicholas Soames MP.[hr]

Interview with Nick Herbert MP.[hr]

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