Countryside hero ‘slam dunks’ developers

Two years ago, Twineham farmer, Robert Worsley made national news when he turned down £275m to protect the Sussex countryside. Now he has taken things a step further by publicly challenging the developers for continuing to promote their proposal on his land.

He says he took action because he has become increasingly concerned about the erosion of the Sussex countryside and the many injustices of the present planning system.

The property company Mayfield Market Towns (MMT) has been promoting Robert’s farm as a ‘new settlement’ for the past four years. MMT has never submitted a formal planning application but it has published maps of Robert’s land on its website showing hundreds of acres of countryside obliterated by the proposal.

However Robert has responded by dealing the company a crushing blow – speaking at the Examination of Mid Sussex’s Local Plan yesterday, he left the government inspector, Jonathan Bore in no doubt of MMT’s glaring shortcomings:

Robert began by referring to paragraph 173 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states the need to establish that there is a willing landowner before a site can be considered. He then criticised MMT’s Planning Advisor, John Rhodes trying to manipulate the process to promote his client’s site:

“With respect to Mr Rhodes and his submission, I know he says they’re not talking about specific sites here, but I think every submission they have made has made it very clear where their site is and where the epicentre of it is.

“As the land owner of the land in that area, I can confirm that the land is not available – it doesn’t have willing land owners there, both in terms of my land and the land belonging to all the farmers and landowners around me.”

“I can confirm that it (Mayfields) is not supported, it is not deliverable and frankly it’s a non starter from any constraint point of view,” he concluded. “It is the definition of ‘constrained.”

This proved to be a pivotal moment in the day’s discussions. Soon afterwards CPRE Sussex’s Michael Brown pointed out that throughout the five days of the hearing the countryside had not been mentioned once: “greenery probably isn’t their thing” he said referring to the developers to his left.

“Mid Sussex District Council’s whole vision and objectives for their plan are predicated on the rural nature of the District,” continued Mr Brown. “Unless the whole underlying ethos of the plan is to be scrapped and local people can be persuaded to accept that Mid Sussex is to become an urbanised district with just patchy pockets of countryside – and I can see no mandate for that – the new District Plan must continue to value and celebrate the district’s rural heritage.”

Robert’s intervention and Mr Brown’s comments were watched by Sir Nicholas Soames who had joined the Public Examination for the morning. Sir Nicholas quickly sent out a flurry of supportive Tweets:

[box]Nicholas Soames ‏@nsoamesmp Robt Worsley major landowner sinks unwanted @MayfieldTowns @Quodplanning “land not for sale” #realherocountrysideoweshimhugedebt

Nicholas Soames ‏@nsoamesmp Poor old @Quodplanning still flogging a dead horse @MayfieldTowns #notwantedhere

Nicholas Soames ‏@nsoamesmp At Examination Local Plan with hero of local countryside Robt Worsley who refuses to sell to ghastly @MayfieldTowns

Nicholas Soames ‏@nsoamesmp @CPRESussex Michael Brown makes important point that in our crowded islands ,Sussex countryside is truly precious #treatwithcareandrespect[/box]

Despite Robert’s crushing blow, Mayfields still had one last go at pushing their case for an ‘early review.’ but this time the Inspector was having none of it:

“And you’ve made those points, Mr Rhodes,” said Mr Bore. “You’ll have to wait to see what I have to say in my report to the Council.”

During the next break a grim faced John Rhodes quietly packed his bags and slipped out – missing the final session completely.
District Post: Frustrated landowner heads for inquiry

Mid Sussex Times: Farmer who turned down £275m to challenge developer directly

BBC Sussex Drive Interview with Robert Worsley (23 minutes into the programme)

SoundCloud: Countryside Hero ‘slam dunks’ developers


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

  1. Angie Sparrowhawk

    I am so pleased the fight continues and Mr Worsley has refused to sell his land. My only fear is that the government insists that homes have to be built and at the end of the day there will be a compulsory purchase order and the land will have to sold at a lower price. than it’s worth. Could this happen? I realise that the MP’s are helping the fight but given the shortage of homes we will all be forced to give up and Mayfield will build their town against public opinion.

    • Jane Watson

      Hi Angie,
      That is absolutely impossible so please don’t worry – and please help us to knock any rumours of CPOs on the head! The law has good protection for land owners.

      The facts are as follows:
      Only the Council has the power to use CPOs for housing – not the developers or the government. Both Horsham and Mid Sussex Councils have made it abundantly clear that they do not in any way support MMT and that even if they did ever consider a ‘new settlement’ option in the future, it would NOT be here!

      Both councils are fully aware of the drainage, transport, visual impact and ecological obstacles this site presents and they are not in any way considering it as an option. At the most recent Local Plan hearing in Mid Sussex, the council didn’t even give MMT a seat at the table (see the photo on out Day 7 update). This company has NO support what so ever – they are just very bad losers.

      MMT are also bullies and will say whatever they have to in order to frighten landowners into believing CPO is a real threat. Just a few months ago a ridiculous rumour was rife that Robert had given in and sold an option – it is all rubbish!!!

      If you still have any doubts at all about the legalities of CPOs and whether MMT could somehow wriggle around them then have a listen to this recording of LAMBS barrister, Richard Turney at the Examination of Horsham’s Local Plan in 2014:

      Thank you again for comment – we really appreciate the feedback!

      Our real fight now is to get MMT’s awful website taken down!!

      Have a lovely weekend (chilly but spring is on the way!)


  2. Christopher Wood

    It’s about time that these conniving Lib Dem peers were put back in their box. I challenge them to turn up to these meetings and face the public, they are simply money minded weasels who have lived off the back of the devious policies they helped to put in place.

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