Devil’s Dyke, a luscious valley on the South Downs way in Sussex, is a rare spot of unspoilt nature, teeming with wildlife and fields as far as the eye can see.
This, however, could all be set to change with potential plans to create Mayfield Market Town – a new Sussex town which will be built right in the centre of this iconic landscape.
The planned location is in the Sussex Weald, to the west of the A23, Burgess Hill, Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint, north east of Henfield and to the south of Gatwick and Crawley. And it is set to be visible from one of Sussex’s most popular beauty spots – Devil’s Dyke, an area which has so far been protected from modern architecture plaguing its skyline. In fact, the view from Devil’s Dyke was once called “The Grandest in the World” by artist John Constable and judging by the tens of thousands who visit each year, he is not alone.
This is not the first time the views from Devil’s Dyke have come under threat from such development; in fact the same company backed by a team of profiteers and Lords put forth their initial proposal for Mayfields in 2013, where they spent the next three years fighting to have their building plans approved. At the time, when questioned on the impact their proposal would have on protecting the South Downs, they responded that although “the site is visible from key viewpoints within the South Downs National Park… The visibility of the countryside area does not preclude development.” Six years on from the initial proposal, they are back and still displaying the same sense of disregard for this slice of countryside with such a rich heritage and intrinsic character. They state that Mayfields will be “designed with health, environmental, social and economic factors in mind” yet are shunning those which are already in place. It’s all very well creating new spots to enjoy the natural environment, but surely not when it is at a cost to the conservation and enhancement of the countryside we already have.
While the Sussex Weald is a popular tourist attraction thanks to its breathtaking views and rich history, it also plays an integral part in our ecosystem. Flocks of wildlife such as birds, deer and spawning sea trout in the river Adur – many of which could see their habitats exterminated if this development is to take place. The area of land proposed for the development is a floodplain which is flooding more frequently since building expansion in Burgess Hill. Further work could see this getting even worse. The plans include 7,000-10,000 dwellings, adding an estimated 14,000 additional cars to local roads; devastating air quality and clogging up roads designed to sustain small villages. The plans are set to affect local wildlife and habitats that will be lost forever and cannot be replaced.
The proposal has unleashed significant opposition from local MPs, Parish & District Councils and local residents, and was deemed “unsustainable” by a Planning Inspector in March 2018, when the latest Mid Sussex Plan was adopted. The needs, wants and viewpoints of locals and residents who oppose the build are being cast aside, with profiteers and Lords (Peter Freeman, Lord Jamie Borwick, Lord Matthew Taylor& Lee Newlyn) happy to pave over this historical land – land that has been cherished for hundreds of years and is a firm piece of Sussex’s heritage.
Such integral parts of the countryside such as this should not be up for a speculative land grab, they should be left to thrive, flourish and bloom as they always have – and should continue to do so. Devil’s Dyke and the views across the Weald are a momentous slice of Sussex and one that simply cannot be destroyed in this way.
Find out more about the proposal and its impact on the Sussex countryside here.