As Mayfield Market Towns continues its assault on the planning process, many people are blinking in disbelief at this company’s blatant disregard for democracy.
During the past week this apparent “abuse” of the British planning laws has attracted the attention of two national newspapers. Last weekend The Sunday Times published a stinging letter from LAMBS Chairman, Geoff Zeidler and on Tuesday, the Daily Telegraph featured full interviews with some of the many land owners who have refused to sell their land to Mayfields.
The story has also attracted widespread International interest, reaching as far as Ghana, Italy, Poland and even Russia. In Norway the Dagbladet chose to headline its report with a quote highlighting “profound moral gaps” in Mayfields’ plan.
So how, in modern day Britain, can a profit driven consortium of rich and powerful investors be allowed to persist against the united wishes of all local people, councils, MPs, land owners and even the government planning inspector?
Mayfields Director and Founder of Argent LLP, Peter Freeman admitted to LAMBS members in 2014 that developers were able to take advantage of loopholes in the law due to either a “contrivance or cock-up” in the newly revised Localism Act. It is no surprise then to learn that his fellow Director, Lord Matthew Taylor was the man charged by the government to redraft these same laws in 2012.
A third director, Lord Jamie Borwick is married to the newly elected MP for Kensington, Victoria Borwick who proudly proclaims on her website that one of her main priorities is to “oppose the way that inconsiderate building projects disrupt the lives of our residents”. Does democracy hold more sway in London than it does in ‘the sticks’?
In December 2013 Mayfields conspired to derail the Mid Sussex District Plan under a technicality called The Duty to Cooperate. The CPRE’s Michael Brown called the move “a nail in the coffin of local democracy” and his colleague Dr Roger Smith described the hearing itself as a “kangaroo court.”
Earlier the same year a Mayfields director wrote to Mid Sussex District Council warning that “the writing is on the wall” for more housing. Local MPs, Sir Nicholas Soames and Nick Herbert responded that it was
entirely unacceptable to pressurise local councils in this way … We should like to remind you that, under the Localism Act, the South East Plan has been scrapped and that our district councils have the right and the responsibility to determine the correct level of housing for their areas.”
The injustice deepens still further when you consider the huge financial cost of Mayfields’ assault on our District Councils’ coffers – all paid for by local tax payers. Mayfields submitted so much evidence to the Examination of the Horsham District Plan in November that the council had to employ an expensive barrister for the occasion and to dedicate a whole day’s hearing to the new town proposal. Now, despite being roundly rejected by the Planning Inspector, Mayfields has submitted a further 137 pages of new evidence for inspection of the revised plan next month.
They’re not getting their way through the democratic process, so they’re trying to subvert it. I think that is absolutely contemptible.” Said Mr Herbert at one of LAMBS’ Public Meetings.
The profound irony of all this is that although Mayfields directors profess to worthy ideals of addressing the housing crisis, their actions are in fact slowing down housing provision by stalling the democratic process at every turn. They are also promoting a scheme which the government Planning Inspector says is “not needed.” The only true beneficiaries of these proposals are the four men who dreamt the scheme up in the first place… and their bulging bank accounts!