With the Mid Sussex Plan Examination due to begin later this month, LAMBS has produced the following 10 point guide to Mayfields’ (MMT’s) flawed proposal.
Our guide exposes the truth behind MMT and explains why this proposal is, in the words of Sir Nicholas Soames, “humbug”:
Mid Sussex Plan Examination Nov 2016
This month (November) the Mid Sussex District Plan goes before the Government Inspector, Jonathan Bore.
The plan has taken 5 years to perfect and includes not only the District Council’s vision for Mid Sussex’s future, but also Neighbourhood Plans from parishes across the area.
The plan proposes 13,600 new homes in the District by 2031. This equates to 800 new houses a year and is an increase of nearly 40% on the council’s previous proposal.
Outlining the new figure, the plan states that, “800 dwellings per year represents the ‘tipping point’ where the negative environmental effects of new development are not outweighed by positive social effects.”
In November 2013 Mid Sussex’s first plan was rejected by a previous government Inspector for failing on a technicality called ‘Duty to Co-operate.’ Just months before this decision, local MPs, Sir Nicholas Soames and Nick Herbert wrote a letter to MMT Director, Lee Newlyn saying this:
“Your strategy is clearly to persuade the Planning Inspector to overturn the District Plan, including by encouraging other councils to invoke the duty to co-operate. Your own letter to Mid Sussex District Council of 4 March warns them that the “writing is on the wall” and that their plan may be rejected. We consider it to be entirely unacceptable for you to pressurise local councils in this way.”
Last year, MMT received a clear rejection from Geoff Salter, the government Inspector examining Horsham’s District plan (which has now been adopted). However, despite this and continued widespread and unanimous opposition from all local councils, MPs, residents and land owners, MMT is still in the wings. MMT’s lengthy submissions to the Mid Sussex Examination extend to more than a thousand pages of repetitive, inaccurate reports by remote consultants. The LAMBS campaign supports the District Plan and will be present throughout the hearing, represented by planning consultant, Martin Carpenter and QC Tom Cosgrove.
The Examination is being held at the Council’s offices in Haywards Heath and will run from 28th Nov – 2nd Dec: http://www.midsussex.gov.uk/planning-licensing-building-control/planning-policy/local-development-framework/district-plan/district-plan-examination/
Mayfield Market Towns is strongly opposed by every tier of local government, all local political parties, the local people and hundreds of land owners.
It was also firmly rejected by Geoff Salter, the Government Planning Inspector who oversaw Horsham’s District Plan and described the proposal as “not appropriate or lawful.”
Eleven Parish Councils have united to form an ‘Inter-parish’ group to fight MMT and Local MPs, Nick Herbert and Sir Nicholas Soames have both spoken out passionately against it on many occasions – including at the Horsham Plan Examination. In December 2013 the MPs wrote a strong letter to MMT Director, Lee Newlyn (link to letter) and alerted the Secretary of State, Nick Boles to the company’s behaviour. In December of the same year they also secured a Parliamentary Debate on the matter.
Speaking at LAMBS’ second packed public meeting in Burgess Hill on June 21 2014, both MPs joined a panel of councils and countryside campaigners and conservation groups to express united opposition.
This is what they said:
“The Mayfield proposal has no local support,” he said. “It does not have the support of the local District Councils, it certainly does not have the support of the local Parish Councils and I can assure you it does not have the support of either of the local Members of Parliament.”
“It is on Greenfield land – Greenfield land that, as we saw over the winter, is prone to flooding… and it is nowhere near a railway station. With absurd pretence this company has suggested that most people in this new town of 10,000 houses will work within the town. We know that’s not true that’s nonsense – what will happen is that they will get into their cars and drive to work.”
“This is therefore an entirely unsustainable proposal that will not fulfil the conditions for a new town, garden town, Garden City – call it what you will. It is an unsustainable proposal that will not pass any of the tests.”
Sir Nicholas Soames:
These people will stop at literally nothing,” he said. “They have lobbied every Councillor – they’ve been after them, they’ve tried to get them to meet them and to talk to them. But they won’t have it – our Councillors are rock solid on this, and know perfectly well that this is the wrong proposal, from the wrong people at the wrong time.”
This area floods every year – it contains a network of ponds and waterways which act as a natural flood plain for the wider area whenever there is heavy rain. It also takes the runoff from Burgess Hill and Sayers Common as well as the back-flow from the River Adur at high tide.
Earlier this year the village of Twineham was cut off for two days by flash flooding which featured on the front page of the local papers:
Flooding can be so widespread that at times all access roads are flooded simultaneously at Shermanbury, Twineham and Albourne – making transport to the central area (where MMT wants to build) impossible in anything but a 4×4.
There are also fears that building in this area will cause severe flooding to the villages downstream – in particular to Bramber and Shoreham:
Finally, this area has another less well known problem with water – unlike the Arun and the Ouse, the Adur is not used as a water source, so all the water discharged from homes upstream actually originates from other rivers. This means that the river already has to cope with an overload of water which is far beyond its natural capacity.
“In fact the River Adur acts as a flood relief scheme for the above rivers in heavy rain falls,” explains Flood Expert, Frank Preston. “Each house built needs water and all this imported water comes from the River Arun or the River Ouse so the water is not historic drainage,”
*LAMBS believes that flooding is such an insurmountable problem for anyone wanting to develop the area that we made it the subject of our second April Fool.
The MMT proposal is seven miles from the nearest railway line and there is no existing infrastructure. To make matters worse the London to Brighton line is fraught with problems and already operating at capacity. Rail experts believe that the line has reached saturation and simply cannot take any more passengers.
However, in 2014, MMT did something which took the madness to a whole new level by suggesting that golf buggies could be used as a low carbon solution to the seven mile trip to the station! http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/10890739.display/?action=switchToDesktop
Last year, the government Inspector examining Horsham’s District Plan concluded that:
“At present, to my mind significant concerns have been raised about the sustainability of the location of the MMT site, in particular its distance from railway services and the strategic road network and the potential usage and viability of the ‘park and ride’ proposals.”
What the experts say about the London to Brighton train line:
Peter Gibbons: 30 years’ experience on the railways- working first as a Signals Manager and then as Incident Controller for Network Rail.
“In short, I don’t think it will cope – I’d say it’s at capacity. The Brighton mainline has only got four lines from London as far as Balcombe Tunnel – beyond that it’s a two track railway going down to Brighton and I can see no way of actually widening that section of line. You’ve got a number of obstacles in your way.
The obstacles Mr Gibbons is referring to include four major tunnels and the Ouze Valley Viaduct near Balcombe, a listed architectural landmark built in 1841 and renovated in 1996 with grants from English Heritage. However this is just the start of the problem:
“The trains are as long as you can make them now – most of them are 8 or 12 carriages in length. The platforms are already at that length and there is a limit as to what you can run on a relatively low voltage railway, which is 750 volts DC.”
*The idea of building so far from existing transport networks seemed so ridiculous that LAMBS couldn’t resist making it the subject of our first April Fool.
4 Iconic Landscape
The MMT proposal is right at the very centre of the most iconic view in Sussex – if not in England. This view – from the top of Devil’s Dyke – is one of Sussex’s most popular tourist attractions and was famously described as “The Grandest in the world” by artist John Constable.
The MMT site is clearly identifiable from local landmarks as being a central part of this famous vista. However, MMT has chosen to mislead planners by including an incorrect photograph in its submissions to the Mid Sussex Plan Examination. This photograph wrongly shows a view towards Burgess Hill not Wineham. LAMBS believes this is an intentional move to mislead the Inspector.
It is worth noting that under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) the law already offers protection for sensitive landscapes. According to official Government guidance, “planning should recognise the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. Local plans should include strategic policies for the conservation and enhancement of the natural environment, including landscape. This includes designated landscapes but also the wider countryside.” (Planning Practice Guidance)
*Once more the proposal to wipe out Constable’s iconic view struck LAMBS as so ludicrous that we couldn’t resist making it the subject of another April Fool.
5 Land Ownership
Last year local land owner, Robert Worsley made national news by refusing to sell options on his farm. Mr Worsley owns 550 acres at the very centre of MMT’s proposal and believes passionately in preserving rural Sussex. And he is not alone! Hundreds of landowners large and small have joined his stand against MMT by pledging to protect more than 4,000 acres as ‘not for sale to MMT.’
However, at the Horsham District Plan Examination, MMT made it clear that it didn’t care what the local councils or the local population thought. Instead the company wanted to examine the possibilities of compulsory purchase as a means to acquiring land cheaply.
There are more than 60 listed species within MMT’s target area – including thriving populations of Nightingales and Barn Owls, Crested Newts and the very rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly.
This area has remained largely unchanged for the past 200 years. This continuity is clear to see in 18th century Tithe and Ordinance Survey maps, with today’s hedgerows, field boundaries, shaws, ponds and waterways easily identified on both.
The area also plays a vital part in the National Barn Owl Recovery Network. Colin Shawyer, former Director of the Hawk and Owl Trust and Founder explains its significance to the species:
“These established barn owl recovery networks are important not only locally, but also regionally and nationally because they form part of a UK wide conservation plan to restore the fragile Barn Owl population. It is important to see these networks as links in a much wider chain. Barn Owls are very sedentary birds so they do not fly very far to new sites. In fact they won’t leave their home ranges – they will just not breed within them. Then, as the habitats and the connectivity of these habitats are degraded, eventually the population dies out.”
It is also a hotspot for Nightingales and Brown Hairstreak butterflies. Val Bentley from the Sussex Ornithological Society has been surveying Nightingales here since the 1990s – she says the richness of the habitat here is irreplaceable:
“It is an excellent area for Nightingales because there is quite a lot of exactly what they want,” she says. “They seem to prefer Blackthorn scrub – in particular Blackthorn scrub near running water; and there are plenty of both around here. We are finding that with so much building going on in the South East, these areas that are still relatively untouched are becoming the most important sites for this particular species.”
Meanwhile, true to form, MMT continues to show a poor understanding of the ecosystems here. Director, Lord Jamie Borwick, made national news last month for claiming that Great Crested Newts were being deliberately introduced onto sites earmarked for building.
*He might like to note that this area has a metapopulation of Crested Newts which have been resident here for Centuries.
7 Smoke and Mirrors
MMT Directors and representatives have been using their positions and influence to promote their scheme at the very highest levels.
Here is a lowdown on who they are and what they have been up to over the past three years:
Lord Matthew Taylor, MMT Director
Lord Taylor has a number of conflicts of interest:
For the past three years he has continued behind the scenes to push for schemes which bear an uncanny resemblance to MMT, for example this report:
https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/gla_migrate_files_destination/garden%20villages.pdf, published by David Cameron’s favourite Tory Think Tank, Policy Exchange (Peter Freeman and John Rhodes are also members).
The report suggests that new local development corporations should be set up with the power to confiscate land with no more than a paltry compensation of just 150 per cent of agricultural value:
Last year the Government famously said that 1 million new homes needed to be built by 2020 – the figures came from The National Housing Federation, of which Lord Matthew Taylor was Chairman at the time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-34209027
In December 2015 Taylor was appointed President of the National Association of Local Councils.
Peter Freeman, MMT Director
MMT’s Director (and Founder of Argent LLP),
In 2014 Peter Freeman admitted to LAMBS members 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 (the one revised by Lord Taylor and John Rhodes).
He is the finance behind MMT, a member of David Cameron’s favourite Think Tank, Policy Exchange and named as a contributor to Lord Taylor’s ‘Garden Villages- Empowering Localism’ report calling for greater compulsory purchase powers.
In 2014 he authored two entries to the Wolfson Economics Prize, both of which suggested Compulsory Purchase as the key to securing cheap land for building:
(These reports have recently disappeared from the Policy Exchange website but I have attached one to this, along with some correspondence from Savills which may be interesting in the light of any new changes on compulsory purchase powers)
Mr Freeman’s company, Argent was responsible for regenerating Kings Cross and has reneged on its promises over Social Housing:
Lord Jamie Borwick, MMT Director
Lord Jamie Borwick (of recent Newt fame) is the man who suggested last week that NIMBYs are ‘planting’ Crested Newts on building sites: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/12/rare-newts-planted-at-development-sites-to-stop-the-bulldozers/
He is married to the 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”.
Victoria Borwick also worked for 5 years with Jonathan Bore who has recently been appointed to oversee the Inspection of the Mid Sussex District Plan – The council and local MPs are now aware of this possible conflict of interest and Sir Nicholas Soames is taking the matter up with Gavin Barwell MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning.
John Rhodes, MMT Planning Consultant:
Mr Rhodes represented MMT at the Examination of Horsham’s district plan (now adopted).
Mr Rhodes is Director of QUOD and, along with Lord Taylor, was involved in re-drafting the NPPF – as one of four ‘government advisers’:
He has worked closely with MMT directors, Peter Freeman and Lord Taylor at Policy Exchange.
Earlier this year he was appointed as Chairman of a new government panel charged with “speeding up the planning process.”
Ironically, in Sussex, the same Mr Rhodes was instrumental in concerted efforts to slow down the progress of Horsham’s District Plan, by urging the Inspector, Geoff Salter to find it “unsound.”
Mr Rhodes’ government appointment was announced almost simultaneously with the publication of this document:
http://www.bonddickinson.com/sites/default/files/nsip_for_housing_projectsfinal.pdf This apparently ‘independent’ report was produced jointly by Quod and the law firm, Bond. Dickinson. It lists Mr Rhodes as one of its contributors, along with four other participants, “who chose to remain anonymous.”
The report was the source of this article:
Lee Newlyn, MMT Director
MMT’s forth Director. Lee is the only Sussex man and was a big name in Barton Wilmore until about five years ago. He has been lobbying locally… very unsuccessfully!
MMT would have a disastrous impact on Burgess Hill, which has been identified by Mid Sussex Council as the focus for investment and development in the district. It would also devastate the thriving village of Henfield and wipe out numerous small villages.
Burgess Hill would be MMT’s nearest town and railway station. LAMBS believes it would be ‘madness’ to concentrate so much disproportionate development within such a small area of Mid Sussex. The plans for Burgess Hill have been many years in the making. They include an extensive town centre redevelopment, a new town square, a new community arts centre, and new civic centre housing the police, town council and library. MMT would undermine these plans and would ‘leach’ on the town’s over-stretched rail services.
A recent car parking survey in the village showed that Henfield businesses serve a large rural area including 17 villages and hamlets, which don’t have shops of their own. Last year it was a regional winner in Action for Market Towns’ ‘Towns Alive Award’ for its community website.
These quiet lanes and unspoiled countryside play an important recreational role for hundreds of people from a large surrounding area – they are popular with cyclists, riders, walkers, campers and nature lovers.
- In a short survey on an average summer weekend 12 cycling groups/individuals/joggers passed one spot on Twineham Lane within half an hour. That is more than one every three minutes. The lanes are used regularly by local clubs for time trial circuits and are on many national cycling routes.
- With Hickstead so close, this is a popular area for riding. There are a number of riding stables within Mayfields’ chosen site, plus many more livery yards.
- There are no less than five well maintained and well used bridle paths linking the villages.
- There are more than 20 beautiful well-used public footpaths across the countryside and along the river and streams.
- Many hiking and walking groups use the area and it is a popular location for a number of schools’ D of E exercises.
- There are fishing lakes at Blacklands Farm and Henfield Angling Society uses the River Adur at Wineham.
- The area attracts holidaymakers keen to get away from it all: Blacklands Farm Camp site, The Royal Oak Country Park, Wineham and numerous B&Bs.
MMT continues to blight this area through a website which shows a proposed new town on hundreds of acres of land which it does not own or control. The real owners have given no permission and have no control over these images.
LAMBS believes that there should be legislation to protect communities against this kind of cyber intrusion. MMT shows no respect for local residents and continues to relentlessly promote a ‘vision’ which is in fact nothing more than a series of ‘blobs’ on a website.
No formal planning applications have ever been made by MMT, no permissions have been given and no land has been bought – all that exists is a website, a board of wealthy Directors and a team of slick professionals employed to lobby decision makers. The land owners do not want to sell their homes or farms, and the site is considered to be completely “unsuitable” for development by all local councils and by all local political parties. The two District Councils (Horsham and Mid Sussex), both actively oppose Mayfields and the Government Inspector overseeing the Hosham Plan rejected the idea as unsustainable and “not required”.
The sad reality for people living under this blob is that as long as the Mayfields website remains, they will continue to suffer stress, misery and ‘blight’. Residents in the local villages say they feel that their right to peaceful lives in their own homes has been severely infringed.