mid-sussex-chamber

Rude, Arrogant and Patronising

Chairman of the government’s Local Plans Expert Group, John Rhodes, has provoked a wave of anger by insulting Sussex councils and appearing to tell the government Planning Inspector what to do.

Mr Rhodes’s controversial comments were made just hours after local MPs, Sir Nicholas Soames and Nick Herbert, had spoken passionately in support of Mid Sussex’s Local Plan – warmly commending the council for its hard work. The MPs opened the third day of Local Plan Examination in Haywards Heath on Thursday morning;

We are here to demonstrate our wholehearted support for the draft local plan as it is presented,” said Sir Nicholas. “We support the level of housing where it is promoted by the council and we respect the very difficult work it has been to balance with the critical environmental constraints of the area.”

“We are here to demonstrate our wholehearted support for the draft local plan as it is presented,” said Sir Nicholas. “We support the level of housing where it is promoted by the council and we respect the very difficult work it has been to balance with the critical environmental constraints of the area.”

Mr Herbert echoed Sir Nicholas’s support and urged the Inspector not to delay the plan, “because it can cause blight – particularly in the area, for instance, around the proposed Mayfields site which we strongly oppose and where there is a suggestion that a new settlement, that is not in the plan, might be.”

Sir Nicholas Soames MP – Mid Sussex Hearing

Nick Herbert MP – Mid Sussex Hearing

Not long after the MPs had left the building, Mr Rhodes, who was representing Mayfields, told the Inspector, Jonathan Bore, that Sussex is “a part of the country which has failed – It has failed in relation to the NPPF and it has failed in relation to its residents. It has failed spectacularly.”

John Rhodes

John Rhodes advises the Government on planning law.

He then stated that Mid Sussex had “an unsound plan” and outlined, in detail, the steps which he thought the Inspector should take to remedy the problem. These included forcing the council to agree to a strict review to address not only its own housing needs, but also a shortfall of houses in neighbouring Brighton and Hove and Crawley – which he said is a total of 38,500 homes.

“With respect, the local authorities in this area need some help in identifying their responsibilities in terms of proactive action to look at the extent of the need,” said Mr Rhodes adding that, “We would be very happy to be part of an exercise to try and draft the terms.”

Mr Rhodes’s last comment produced a blast of laughter throughout the council chamber, but he didn’t give up, and by the end of the day he had secured permission to take a part in the drafting of a new document to outline a possible review strategy. This is to be discussed at the public hearing next week on Friday 9th December.

LAMBS’ View 
It is clear to us that John Rhodes is trying to manipulate the process (and the evidence) in a way which will persuade the Inspector to impose an ‘early review’ on the Mid Sussex Local Plan. Although this ‘locks out’ Mayfields in the short term (as has happened in Horsham), it would allow them another window of opportunity in a few years time. In the meantime they will be planning to promote their proposal in the hope of evidencing some support – we are aware that they are already carrying out another one of their rather biased opinion polls (using ICM Polling this time). They will also be hoping that this lengthy assault will ‘wear down’ our communities.

Mr Rhodes participation in the Examination, and his comments on Mid Sussex Council, have been met with fury by local people who have accused him of abusing his position to promote Mayfields and of “bullying” their local council.

“The world has gone nuts,” says Beverley Fleet on the LAMBS’ Facebook page “The Army are putting up posters on their bases saying bullying is not right, but if you want to be a land developer you quite obviously have to have a degree in it. So what do we teach our children? There are houses going up everywhere in Mid-Sussex, destroying beautiful land that I have treasured over the many years I have lived here, but Mr & Mrs Average can’t afford them. The bullies just want to line their own pockets and ensure they can retire in sunnier climes than the UK.”

 

 

Speaking at the hearing, LAMBS Planning Consultant, Martin Carpenter appealed to the Inspector not to give the Mayfields proposal any encouragement saying:

The Horsham Inspector has given a clear steer as to what he thought of that project and identified severe problems, including serious transport issues – ditto the Crawley Inspector. I would urge you on the submissions you see to give some comment on that.”

But the Inspector made it clear that he would not discuss individual sites re-iterating that his job is to decide the number and that site selection is a job for the council:

“I’m not going to be making any comments on the merits or otherwise of anything Mayfield Market Towns may be putting forward,” he said.

However Mr Bore did say that he believed Mid Sussex’s annual housing provision figure of 800 was too low and he warned that he would be asking the council to build at least another 100 a year to meet Crawley’s shortfall. He also said that he felt Mid Sussex had a responsibility to Brighton and asked the council to consider its options.

In 2012 Mr Rhodes was one four advisors to the government on the original drafting of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and earlier this year his Expert Group produced this report for the government:
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/508345/Local-plans-report-to-governement.pdf
These recommendations are to be the foundations of the government’s new Housing White Paper due later this month. Mr Rhodes has been working as Mayfield’s Planning Expert for the past two years.

“This is not democracy” says local resident, Christine Bailey, “They just will not give up – the local plans aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.”

Mr Rhodes participation in the Examination, and his comments on Mid Sussex Council, have been met with fury by local people who have accused him of abusing his position to promote Mayfields and of “bullying” their local council.

LAMBS’ View 
Mr Rhodes will command the respect of the Inspector due to his position as Chairman of the government’s Local Plans Expert Group and will have an intimate knowledge of all the loopholes in the NPPF due to the fact that he was one of the team who helped draw it up. He will also undoubtedly have a great deal of inside knowledge of the government’s forthcoming Housing White Paper because, again, he was involved in the recommendations on which it is based.
We at LAMBS believe this is a grave abuse of power and have been keeping the MPs and the media aware of all developments at the hearing as they happen.

See LAMBS Daily Update on Mid Sussex 2016 Local Plan Hearing.

Daily Update: Mid Sussex 2016 Local Plan Hearing

Days 1, 2, 3 & 4


Tuesday 29th November: Day 1 of the hearing is now complete. Mayfields had very little chance to contribute anything to today’s discussion on housing need in the district. The main contributors were Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) and Mid Sussex Developers Forum (MSDF) which represents eleven major developers.

After lunch the Inspector announced that he had already come to the conclusion that the Council’s housing figures (800 new homes per year) were unlikely to be high enough, but he questioned the evidence base of MSDF’s figure which calls for a 25% increase (still less than Mayfields’ figure!).

He has now asked MSDC and MSDF to go away and have further discussions together about the possibility of coming to some kind of mutual agreement. Meanwhile, Mayfields which must view the MSDF an arch rival could only sit and watch. More tomorrow…

Wednesday 30th November: Day 2 of the Examination of Mid Sussex’s Local Plan.

Today Mayfields was represented by its high profile Planning Consultant, John Rhodes who is also Chairman of the government’s Local Plans Expert Group. In March his Expert Group made a series of recommendations to the government which are the basis for a new Housing White Paper due to be published before the end of the year.


This morning Mr Rhodes wasted no time in advising the Inspector, Jonathan Bore that, in his view, Mid Sussex had not fulfilled a number of government policy requirements. Most of the discussion was on ‘high level’ matters such as the mechanisms by which the council carried out its ‘Sustainability Assessment’ and on ‘constraints’ to development.


The Inspector re-iterated that he felt that the council’s figure of 800 new homes per year was not high enough while at the same time he said there was insufficient evidence to justify the 25% increase called for by the Mid Sussex Developers Forum (representing 13 large developers). Mayfields is not part of the Forum and is calling for an even higher figure to take account of Brighton’s and Crawley’s ‘unmet need.’


After lunch John Rhodes made his first bid to promote Mayfields by name. This was despite the Inspector’s specific request that he did not want to discuss specific sites at this stage of the hearing, adding that:
“It’s the Council’s business to look at the evidence and allocate sites.”


Mr Rhodes told the inspector that the Council had been wrong to dismiss the new town proposal and complained at the way in which Mayfields’ five volume submissions had been rejected by the council in a simple one paged document.


LAMBS Planning Consultant, Martin Carpenter then briefly outlined the unsuitability of Mayfields’ chosen site and its unpopularity among local people (including the land owners.) When Mr Rhodes tried to respond to Mr Carpenter’s comments the Inspector said:
“I’m not going to look at the merits or otherwise of the MMT proposal or indeed the objections to it – that’s for yourselves and the Council. What I am interested in doing is staying at the strategic level. I’ve said it a few times already that if additional houses were to be required then that would be down to the council, so I’m not interested in the merits or de-merits of that scheme.”
Tomorrow’s session will look more closely at the council’s housing figures and consider the district’s ability to take some of the ‘unmet need’ from Brighton and Crawley.

Thursday 1st December: Day 3

The final day of this week’s hearings began with a flourish of MPs and ended in a procedural ‘hijack’ by Mayfield Market Towns’ front man, John Rhodes.

Sir Nicholas Soames and Nick Herbert opened the meeting with passionate speeches about the importance of locally led planning – reiterating their strong opposition to Mayfields and urging the Inspector to allow the Mid Sussex Plan to go forward in its present form.

The Inspector, Jonathan Bore then heard evidence from representatives from both Crawley and Brighton and Hove Councils on what’s known as ‘unmet housing need’ – ie the calculated shortfall of homes which each borough has and is unable to build for itself. This was reported to be around 5,000 for Crawley and 16,000 for Brighton.

The council assured the Inspector that the District had been in long discussions with both councils and had not failed in its ‘Duty to Cooperate’ (the technicality which brought about the downfall of the first Mid Sussex Plan in 2013). Brighton Council’s representative, Liz Hobden then explained that both Mid Sussex and Horsham are part of a large group of neighbouring councils which are presently working on a strategy to address Brighton’s problem.

It was at this point that Mayfields, John Rhodes took to the stage and spoke at length – giving the council what can only be described as a ‘dressing down’. He called Mid Sussex’s Local Plan “unsound” saying: “This is a part of the country which has failed – failed in relation to the NPPF and failed in relation to its obligations to it residents. It has failed spectacularly.” Mr Rhodes then suggested that the Inspector should allow the plan to be adopted but with an “early review” to address Brighton’s shortfall.


Mayfields has made no secret of its enthusiasm for an “early review” because this would bring Mid Sussex in line with Horsham and allow them time to attempt garnering support for their unwanted town.

After lunch the Inspector gave a hint as to what his early conclusions were. He said that he felt the Council needed to find around 100 more houses per year to help towards Crawley’s unmet need and that he would be looking for a suitable “mechanism” by which to address Brighton’s shortfall. He directed the Council to have discussions with the Mid Sussex Developers Forum about what form this could take, mentioning a ‘review’ as a possibility.

Mayfields then leapt back into the fray with Mr Rhodes demanding that Mayfields be included in these discussions – at which point LAMBS’ quick thinking Planning Consultant, Martin Carpenter added: “If Mayfields is in the discussion then we should be too!”


Friday 9th December: Day 4

Although today’s hearing was billed as having a packed Agenda, in reality only two issues were properly considered before the Inspector adjourned early due to a problem with the hearing in his left ear.

However, from a LAMBS perspective, it was still a very useful day with our barrister, Tom Cosgrove, exposing some of the truth behind Mayfields’ submissions.

The hearing began with Mid Sussex Council’s QC, Rupert Warren, in fighting form. Mr Warren challenged the Inspector’s view that Horsham’s newly adopted Local Plan should not be used as a yardstick for Mid Sussex.

“We are a tiny bit concerned about your approach to Horsham” said Mr Warren. “Unless we can see why different conclusions apply – in effect why the Horsham outcome was ‘wrong,’ and why it would be ok for there to be a completely different approach between the two parts of the HMA (Housing Market Area), we are going to struggle to justify to ourselves in the exercise of our duty.

“Consistency is a good thing in general – it is a legal requirement – if inconsistent decisions are reached then that can give rise obviously to a legal challenge.”

Mr Warren also pulled the Inspector up on his use of language, pointing out that using words like “proper” and “inappropriate” when describing a technical planning process might imply something “nefarious.”

“That kind of language, sir, might imply, to those who aren’t directly connected to the process, improper behaviour and some far more negative implications about the way the council has been approaching these matters,” he said.

The Inspector conceded this and put the record straight by commending the council for four years’ hard work;

“The council has put a great deal of work into this – in fact it made that point, in its recent submission, that it has been working on this for 4 years and you can see that in the volume of material that has come through. I make no criticism of the council in that respect.”

Mayfields team was without John Rhodes, but its barrister Satnam Choongh picked up the argument were they had left off last week by repeating Mr Rhodes’ claim that the plan is “unsound” and offering to “help” put this right:

“What we are offering is a review mechanism which would save this plan and make a plan which would otherwise be unsound sound.”

“It would give others such as ourselves the opportunity to come back to make our submissions.”

The Mayfields’ ‘mechanism’ – which advocates a review of the plan within just two years – was immediately shot down by LAMBS Barrister, Tom Cosgrove:

“You clearly can find this plan sound without a review mechanism,” he said. “I think my learned friend is alone in suggesting that it can’t. To have a mechanism in a plan anything like that suggested by Mayfields would lead to immediate uncertainty within days.”

He then pointed out that Mr Choongh had rather carelessly exposed the baldness of Mayfields strategy:

“The position of Mayfields has been revealed just then when my learned friend says ‘it would give us an opportunity to come back’”

The remainder of the hearing was largely taken up with some complex number crunching arguments from the Mid Sussex Developers Forum and debate on the methods by which the housing numbers should be calculated.

The Inspector then asked both the Council and MSDF to review a number of technical matters for discussion in the New Year. He finished by arranging two new hearing days on January 12 and 13 – the first for technical matters and the second to look at deliverability.

Prior to the Hearing Mayfields sent a letter to all Mid Sussex District and Parish councillors encouraging them to make the choice to support their new town which patently undermines the Neighbourhood plans already in place. Please see in the toggle links below our letter to councillors highlighting the inaccuracies of Mayfields’ arguments together with a separate letter to all our supporters.

LAMBS letter to Mid Sussex District and Parish Councillors

Dear Councillor

You will have recently received a letter from Mr Peter Freeman who is a founding Director of the property company, Mayfield Market Towns.

Mayfields is a speculative venture which is promoting proposals for a new market town on a rural site straddling the Horsham/Mid Sussex boundary. Due to the obvious unsuitability of this location these proposals have been overwhelmingly rejected by local councils, MPs, land owners and residents. They have also been rejected as “severely disadvantaged” by the government Inspector who examined the Horsham Local Plan. This site is an area of high flood risk, it is seven miles from the railway line and, due to its unspoilt nature, provides habitat for more than 60 listed and endangered species of wildlife.

We would like to draw your attention to the extravagant claims made by Mr Freeman in his correspondence to you (dated 17 Nov 2016). We believe many of his assertions are inaccurate and misleading. Mr Freeman is asking you to pressurise your council to consider his proposal as a viable CHOICE for Mid Sussex which is totally unrealistic.

Please see the following more accurate analysis of this company’s position:

Does Mayfields control enough land to be deliverable?

Mayfield Market Towns has not evidenced any ownership or control of land, despite being specifically requested to do so by the Planning Inspector examining the Horsham Local Plan last year. As outlined in Mr Freeman’s letter, the land on which Mayfields claims to have secured options is made up of a series of ‘parcels’ and, from our understanding, these are predominantly in Horsham District and therefore not available to Mid Sussex. As you know the Horsham Local Plan has now been adopted and specifically excludes the Mayfields proposal, which was described by the Inspector as “severely disadvantaged.”
LAMBS has documentary evidence of more than 4,000 acres of land within Mayfields’ target area where the owners are unwilling to sell to this company. In addition to this, extensive professional reports on transport, flooding and ecology within the area all highlight the undeliverability of the Mayfields proposal.
As openly stated in Peter Freeman’s letter the best Mayfields could achieve is clusters of housing on “Several” “parcels of land” – therefore to claim this is the “Masterplan” for a deliverable “market town” is pure fantasy.

Does Mayfields have the financial backing?

Mayfield Market Towns is not a developer – this company was specifically incorporated to promote this one scheme and its 2015 accounts show it has negative net assets. Mayfields is a purely speculative venture which is designed to make money for its directors and investors who will not be responsible for building any houses. The development at Kings Cross which Mr Freeman refers to in his letter has been the subject of controversy regarding its provision of social housing. Mayfields does not have sufficient financial backing to deliver its plans and the fact that it has sold half the company to Affinity Homes does not change this situation. Mayfields has made no secret of the fact that its financial model relies on purchasing land at agricultural values which is highly unrealistic.

Does Mayfields have the skills and the vision?

Mayfields does not have a coherent plan. Its proposed area of development has ‘yoyoed’ between Horsham and Mid Sussex and is constantly changing location, shape and form.
Mayfields’ knowledge of the area is woeful:
This Company’s first submissions to Horsham District Council labelled Haywards Heath as “Haywoods Heath” and Worthing as “Bognor Regis.” Mayfields most recent ‘Main Representations’ to Mid Sussex District Council refer to Bolney Sub-station as “Botley” and routes a fast bus link to the railway station through the bottle neck of Hurstpierpoint High Street.
In acknowledgement of the problems posed by the absence of a railway line, Mayfields’ first solution was to suggest that golf buggies should be used for the 7 mile journey to Burgess Hill Station!

Will Mayfields have less impact on residents than a group of alternative schemes? /Does Mayfields offer you protection from speculative development elsewhere in the District? /Will Mayfields be more successful in creating a community than add-on developments?

Eleven Parish Councils, two District Councils, two MPs and the vast majority of people living in and around the wider affected area vehemently oppose Mayfield Market Towns. This proposal fails on every criteria of the government’s policy on new settlements and localism. Sir Nicholas Soames and Nick Herbert both ran in the 2015 general election on an anti-Mayfields ticket, and we have been advised that both will be speaking against the proposal at the Mid Sussex hearing (as they did at the Horsham hearing.) All of the parishes in and around the site have ‘made’ neighbourhood plans which roundly reject the Mayfields proposal.
Mayfield Market Towns is ignoring Mid Sussex District Councils’ own locally led projects and flying in the face of the government’s flagship policy of ‘Localism.’ Mayfields is based on a view that Mid Sussex forms part of the Brighton housing market area and should be treated as a suburb.

Yours faithfully,

LAMBS

Peter Freemans letter to all Mid Sussex District and Parish councillors:

peter-freeman-inaccurate-letter

 

The Fight Goes On - LAMBS letter to our Supporters

Dear Supporters

We are disappointed that Mayfield Market Towns have been allowed to take part in the extra day added to the Mid Sussex Hearing but fortunate that LAMBS planning consultant, Martin Carpenter, was able to ensure LAMBS were also represented. We strongly believe it is important we have expert counsel alongside Martin on Friday, 9th December. Our barrister, Tom Cosgrove, is lined up to come, but to ensure we benefit fully from his knowledge and expertise at the negotiating table, we do need to raise a further £5,000.

We really appreciate your generosity to this date, but to give us the very best chance against Mayfield Market Towns, please consider donating for what will be our last opportunity to stop a short term review of the Mid Sussex Plan.

Possible ways to donate are:

By Paypal through the website:
http://lambs.org.uk/donate/
By cheque payable to LAMBS:
Postal address:
Suite 204
33 Queen Street
Horsham
RH13 5AA
Or on-line to:
NatWest Bank
Sort code: 53 50 39
Acc No: 55355846

If you would like to speak to one of the LAMBS team to discuss a donation, please email your contact details to lambsorg@gmail.com and we will get in touch.

Just a word of warning, several local people have expressed concerns about an opinion poll, commissioned by Mayfield Market Towns, which asks leading questions to support a new town. If you receive such a call, we would like to hear from you.

Thank you,

Kind regards

LAMBS

2 Responses to Rude, Arrogant and Patronising

  1. John Howie 4th December 2016 at 10:00 am #

    Dear Sir,

    Having watched the public examination of the MSDC housing plan unfold this past week, I have becoming increasingly astonished, and angered at how proceedings have progressed.
    Simply put, Mayfield Market Towns (MMT), in the guise of John Rhodes of QUOD Conultants, is trying to hijack Mid Sussex’s Local Plan – this is outrageous – it undermines ALL our neighbourhood and local plans, affects the WHOLE of Sussex, and makes a complete mockery of the Government’s professed regard for Locally led decisions.
    Councils, with their local elected mandate should be making such decisions, not unaccountable, bullying developers with precisely no mandate at all. This smacks of precisely the same ‘Feral Capitalism’ we have seen so glaringly with BHS recently. MMT should be shown the door having precisely no support whatsoever from any of our MPs, District Councils, Parish Councils, and local communities. The fact that are even in the same room is a disgrace.

    John Rhodes is doing this by insulting and patronising our local Councils and by using his high level position as a government advisor to work on the Inspector. This is quite apart from the elephant in the room, the glaring conflict of interest, the fact that John Rhodes helped draw up the NPPF, and then in the next breath is working for these venal developers, MMT.
    If MMT succeed, Mid Sussex and Horsham districts will be swamped with houses and changed for ever (even if Mayfields is never built) – this is all about housing numbers and not where they go. However more relevantly it is all about lining the pockets of hugely wealthy establishment figures.

    I trust the Planning Inspector will do his duty to the elected Council, and not succumb to the despicable tactics of arrogant developers.

  2. Ms M Hull 5th December 2016 at 4:24 pm #

    I thoroughly agree with all the comments made by Mr Howie.
    I am not someone who usually writes to their local MP, but I have recently written to Mr Herbert along the very same lines in the hope that maybe he can raise the issues of localism with Savid Javid.

    I am very concerned about what the contents of the Housing White Paper will be given MR Rhodes obvious conflict of interest. This will also prompt the question “is there any evidence of corruption?”

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