Land West of Ifield West Sussex

Dear Mr Jenrick,

We have been in a long running dialogue with Horsham District Council and Crawley Borough Council regarding a Homes England intention to build 10,000 houses to the west of Ifield, West Sussex.

The first phase of this proposal consists of 3,250 houses to be built on Ifield Golf Club; on farmland bordering on the river Mole and Ifield Brook Meadow.

Horsham District Council have suggested that we should come to you directly to point out some of the shortcomings of this proposal

  • Ifield Golf Club, available to young and old, is a piece of local history, designed and built in 1927 by the designers of Royal Birkdale. It is a flourishing sports facility and it would appear that Homes England are not complying with the requirements of NPPF clause 97 a) to c). We understand that
  • the National Planning Policy Framework must be taken into account in preparing the development plan, and is a material consideration in planning decisions. The proposed replacement for the golf club is a football pitch in the floodplain, which will provide at most 75% of the sporting activity provided by IGC.
  • The farmland is partly on the River Mole flood plain. Their replacement for the lost green spaces is a “park” straddling the river Mole which has burst its banks dramatically in recent years. This has resulted in an old peoples home being evacuated by the fire brigade and finally closed down. To cover the site with buildings and hard standings, even allowing for a SUDS drainage scheme, can only exacerbate the threat.

Their glossy presentation of the park failed to indicate the 4 lane highway passing through it, which would cut off access for the public and the displaced wildlife. The road would need to be illuminated to Highways standard at pedestrian crossing points which would completely change the character of nearby Ifield Wood Nature Reserve.

The meadow is partly in Ifield Village Conservation Area; it is a Local Wildlife Site and is in part Ancient Woodland. Their proposal would involve driving illuminated  e-bike-ways through the meadow which is currently a peaceful, country walk . Street and building lighting across the stream would completely change the character of the Conservation Area. Not the enhancement that they claim it to be.

Homes England’s claims in their recent presentation are generally flawed and show little regard for or awareness of the value and character of the site.

It is clearly not sustainable for housing. The loss of Green Spaces; loss of wildlife, proximity to Gatwick runway and the flood plain and loss of a thriving sports facility are not properly allowed for in the proposed scheme.

Their proposals for public transport include a bus service running on a 5 metre wide road, which is clearly not viable.

We are advised that Horsham District Council officers do not want to build these houses and CBC have also said that they don’t want them on this site.

We know that your colleague Henry Smith is opposed to this development and are advised that Jeremy Quin is trying to have HDC’s housing numbers reduced.

Some of the recent developments have stalled through lack of buyers, which should at least put some degree of doubt over the need for so many houses in the area. A lot of the recent buyers are cashing in their more expensive houses in surrounding areas to move to the “country” (what’s left of it!) with a tidy surplus in the bank. These houses are not satisfying a need but rather “want”. That is perfectly understandable, and it’s their right but what’s the point of moving to the country if it is disappearing so quickly. Many people in the south of England might like the dream of owning a character cottage in a Cornish fishing village but if they were all allowed to do it, there would be no Cornish villages left. If we continue to build in the Sussex countryside at the planned rate there will be little Sussex countryside and few character villages left.

However, notwithstanding numbers, we are concerned that the Chief Executive of Homes England has threatened Crawley BC’s Chief Executive that they are prepared to award themselves planning permission if CBC didn’t co-operate!   This is a shockingly sinister threat, which as rate payers and tax payers we take extremely seriously. What is the point of electing our representatives if they can be arrogantly brushed aside by a non-elected Quango boss!   In view of current public concerns about back-door decision making, WHERE IS THE DEMOCRACY IN THIS?

Understandably your schedule would not allow for personal visits to every site in question but I hope that you may be able to take into account the local knowledge of your parliamentary colleagues and our local political representatives.

Your sincerely,

Malcolm Bender