13/03/2017 – Press Release – Mid Sussex District Plan follow up from Haywards Heath Branch
Greg Mountain, Chair of Haywards Heath Labour Party, weighed in behind Constituency Chair Pam Haigh in calling for the resignation of Councillors responsible for failing to get the District Plan approved. Greg said,
"Mid Sussex Labour Party is committed to representing local people. Key to that at present is protecting us all from developers ignoring local views and building housing wherever they want.
Our stance is clear over the last ten years. We have sought to make the District Council meet its statutory duty as a planning authority to set a housing land supply figure and obtain an approved District Plan. "
Local Conservative councillors have failed, and they know it.
In the absence of a District Plan and a land supply figure for house building there is little chance of controlling housing development.
The Conservatives have held power in Mid Sussex for many years. During that time they did not meet their responsibility for planning thus failing to protect local people from unrestrained housing development. They knew after the election in 2015 they still had to get the District Plan passed and set a land supply figure, as every day without them opens the door to ever more housing development.
Greg maintains that Mid Sussex councillors failed to explain to us all the process for getting a District Plan approved.
As a result local people understandably think that a referendum result in favour of a contributory Neighbourhood Plan means a District Plan will be approved.
That isn't the case, a referendum is one part of a larger process. And that process ends when a Government appointed, independent Planning Inspector decides whether a District Plan takes into account all available information. In the Mid Sussex case he decided it does not.
Without the District Plan and land supply figure the situation will worsen, Greg says, citing examples from the last two years where the District Council failed to stop applications for unwanted development at sites on Penland Farm and land north of Birchen Lane.
In his opinion Mid Sussex councillors cynically turned down those two individual planning applications, as a public relations exercise, knowing that the Planning Inspector was likely to overrule them on the grounds that the Council could show no economic or environmental reasons to stop a housing development.
Councillors knew that in the absence of a District Plan and an up to date land supply figure the Planning Inspector is directed by Government to presume in favour of housing development with the country facing a housing shortage.
This message was made clear to Mid Sussex District Council by the Planning Inspectorate in May 2014 regarding an appeal over planning permission for housing development in Handcross.
Greg stresses that the Council now has no option. It must deal with the situation immediately. And doing a deal means meeting, not avoiding the Inspector.
"Let's face it ", he said, "the Inspector called, District Councillors failed the test and failed to protect the countryside and local people from unrestrained housing development."
He thinks the chances of our local MP, Sir Nicholas Soames helping are limited.
" I've read letters in the Middy suggesting we write to our MP. I wonder what he can practically do to help his District Council colleagues out of their self dug hole. Criticising the Planning Inspector is inappropriate, it's not his fault, he has no option but to require that a District Plan is properly constructed and a recent land supply figure is set. Instead, Sir Nicholas should encourage the District Councillors responsible to resign and allow voters to replace them with those of us who understand and are capable of meeting the statutory duties of a planning authority."