Mayfield Market Towns must be sent packing – that is the unanimous consensus of Mid Sussex’s Parliamentary Candidates… and they are all promising to do the job!
The candidates expressed blanket opposition to the new town proposal at a pre-election hustings in Haywards Heath on Tuesday (April 21). A show of hands at the event also demonstrated that the audience of around 200 local people shared this view.
So what are our prospective MPs planning to do, to get rid of Mayfields? Ideas range from an “Emergency Summit” to the introduction of a “Community Harassment Bill.”
LAMBS has carried out exclusive interviews with each candidate:
Conservative, Sir Nicholas Soames who has been MP for Mid Sussex for the past 18 years has been battling against Mayfields’ proposal since it emerged two years ago. He says the proposal is a “bloody awful, stupid thing to do” and is confident that it has no hope of ever succeeding under current planning laws and has pledged to continue his fight to see it off for good.
In June 2013 Sir Nicholas and neighbouring Arundel and South Downs MP, Nick Herbert wrote to Mayfields Director, Lee Newlyn condemning the proposal, the way it is being pursued, and the perceived ‘conflict of Interest’ in Planning Peer, Lord Matthew Taylor’s position as a paid director of the company. (link to pdf of letter). Since then both MPs have put their weight behind the LAMBS’ campaign securing an Adjournment Debate in Westminster, supporting fund-raising events and speaking passionately against Mayfields at two packed Public Meetings and at the Horsham District Plan hearing in November.
However, Liberal Democrat, Daisy Cooper blames the Tories for the problem, saying that Mayfields would have given up by now if a Mid Sussex Local Plan had been in place. She was unfazed by questions about Lord Taylor and promised to “back the campaign vocally” if she is voted in.
“I can’t speak on behalf of one individual who may have a particular perspective,” she says. “What I can tell you that it is Liberal Democrat policy to oppose developments where they are not linked-in to transport and infrastructure.”
UKIP Candidate, Toby Brothers also blames the Tories; saying the NPPF itself is flawed and should never have been introduced in the first place;
“When I knock on doors,” he says, “everywhere, they want change. The only change they’re really going to get is by voting UKIP, and then we can scream from the roof tops about how wrong this planning strategy is.”
Perhaps the most imaginative suggestion comes from Independent Candidate, Beki Adam, who is proposing the introduction of a ‘Community Harassment Bill’ to tackle aggressive developers who hassle communities in the way Mayfields has done in Mid Sussex.
She says that Mayfields’ proposals have left people feeling “unsafe in their own homes” and says they should be given similar protection as that given to victims of stalking;
“When a Company comes along with an idea which local people say, ‘we don’t want, please go away’,” she says, “then, when they refuse to go away, there is some recompense for people whose lives are being ruined by the threat.”
Meanwhile, Labour Candidate, Greg Mountain, described Mayfields as a “very flawed application that is doomed” and reaffirmed his party’s commitment to brown field sites;
“What the labour Party is trying to do… and Ed Miliband said it when he launched the manifesto… is ‘Brown field first’. We do have a relatively small supply of brown fields in Mid Sussex, but that’s our commitment.”
The Green Party’s, Miranda Diboll stressed her Party’s well established commitment to sustainable building;
“We support sustainable housing in the Green Party and this certainly isn’t!” she says. “I could never support a development like this. Firstly it is vast and it would wipe out a huge swathe of beautiful Sussex countryside that we must protect and cherish.”
Mid Sussex’s final Prospective Candidate is not known for his serious views, but Baron Von Thunderclap of the Monster Raving Loony Party was in a sober mood on the subject of Mayfields;
“I would much rather see the homes built on proper Brownfield sites,” he said, “than waste proper good, Greenfield areas. I also hate to see the beautiful villages expanding and expanding to town size.”
Another hustings in the Arundel and Southdowns constituency was held in Steyning on the same evening. LAMBS representatives attended but the discussion was not open to questions on the night, and the agenda was based on national and global environmental issues.