We have continued in 2019 to be engaged in a number of planning issues. In 2018, the Secretary of State for Housing overruled both Mid Sussex District Council and a Government Planning Inspector’s appeal decision by granting permission to Wates the developers for 200 homes south of Scamps Hill. No construction has taken place at the time of writing, but we will continue to monitor the situation with a view at least to limiting the impact on the community. The Secretary’s decision is a very unfortunate demonstration of government planning policy, which remains heavily weighted in favour of development at any cost.
Another speculative application for 43 dwellings off High Beech Lane received outline planning permission in 2017. There was widespread opposition at the time, due largely to serious questions about land stability and flood risk in the area. Conditions were at least attached to the planning permission requiring analysis of these risks. Subsequently, the Council has granted detailed “reserved matters” planning permission, despite the fact that no such studies have been produced and despite four other planning conditions being breached. We are pressing for an independent evaluation and publication of the developers’ risk analysis, if and when it appears.
The saga of proposed development on the site of the former Tavistock and Summerhill School continued in 2019. Following withdrawal of the original application for a large complex of blocks of flats and “townhouses”, a slightly modified version has emerged. It remains an urban concept entirely out of keeping with Lindfield’s character. We continue to urge that planning permission be refused.
A scheme for a very large development on the site of Haywards Heath Golf Club is at the time of writing in abeyance. The District Council has named the site an Asset of Community Value, which provides some protection, but that status now seems to be in doubt. It is in any case clear that the would-be developers will not give up. Vigilance will be required here.
We reviewed 120 planning applications over the year, taking a public position where we considered it appropriate.
The Society launched a programme of design awards in 2019. We were pleased to recognise the efforts of three households who have carried out building work using thoughtful design and materials that contribute to the sympathetic development of Lindfield. Certificates commending good craftsmanship and design will continue to be awarded at our annual AGM.
We expect 2020 to be another challenging year. We always welcome new members and in particular new participants on our management committee. We would like to thank you all for your support in 2019 and wish you a happy and peaceful New Year.
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT TO THE AGM MEETING ON 17 April 2019
The Chairman reported that total current membership stood at 611, slightly down on April last year at 634. He requested members to encourage friends and any new residents to join. It is easy to do, and can involve as much or as little work as each member wishes. The Society is particularly interested in having members join the management committee, where new views and fresh ideas are very important.
Planning matters continue to feature prominently in what we do. The committee has examined on the order of 120 local planning applications of all sizes over the last year. Our main criterion in evaluating an application is, as always, whether it represents sensitive development that preserves, and hopefully enhances, the character of Lindfield. Where this is not the case, we make formal objections to the Parish and District Councils.
Since our last AGM, you will no doubt have observed that large housing developments have continued to spread despite determined local resistance. Construction of Taylor Wimpey’s scheme for 130 units at Gravelye Lane, on the ridge overlooking the village, is now in process. We are keeping a close eye on this, with a view at least to minimising its impact specifically through preserving the trees on the ridgeline, which provide some level of screening.
We can expect a further 200 houses just south of Scamps Hill, after the Secretary of State for Housing overruled both the District Council, which refused permission, and the Planning Inspector who recommended dismissing the developers’ appeal.
We still await a detailed planning application for 48 houses off High Beech Lane, a scheme that received outline planning permission despite a history of land instability and flooding in that area. We will work to see these issues addressed fully when the application materialises.
The site of Tavistock and Summerhill School was subject to a highly inappropriate proposal for large blocks of flats that was withdrawn last year following widespread opposition. A subsequent application for 38 units is now under review. The new proposal remains, in our view, a transparently speculative attempt to overdevelop and urbanise the site and we have registered our opposition.
The fate of Haywards Heath Golf Course has been a matter of considerable speculation. Rather than simply applying for planning permission, the would-be developers seem to have adopted the tactic of attempting to get this site included in the District Council’s next list of sites officially allocated for development. This would effectively grant permission in principle. There should be a public consultation on site allocations this summer. It will be very important at that stage to argue against including this site on the council’s list.
As we discussed at last year’s AGM, the fundamental problem in all of this has been and remains government housing policy. Policy since 2010 has amounted largely to a developers’ charter, in the apparent belief that left to their own devices, private developers could solve the nation’s housing problems. It should be clear by now, nearly a decade later, that this has not worked. A national shortage of genuinely affordable housing persists, while desirable areas like ours are swamped by unneeded and unwanted speculative development. We encourage you to join us in lobbying our MP, Sir Nicholas Soames, on this point. Only parliament can change the policy.
Conservation and Design Awards
On a lighter note, it was announced at last year’s AGM that the Society would be inaugurating a Conservation and Design Award scheme to promote and encourage the preservation and sympathetic development of Lindfield. I am pleased that the first three properties to be awarded are represented at the meeting by the owners and their builders and architects. The properties will be introduced by our committee member, Maxine Tyler, who has led the activity and certificates will be presented. For more information about the Awards scheme and photographs, click on the button below.
Promoting and encouraging the preservation and sympathetic development of this historic tree-lined village.