2018-19 has been another busy year for the Planning Committee. Whilst the Committee has continued reviewing all applications submitted for the Parish with responses being submitted to Mid Sussex District Council (the Local Planning Authority), there have fortunately been no new applications that would significantly erode the distinctiveness of Cuckfield.

District Plan

The key issue in the year was the adoption, after ten years in the making, of the new District Plan.

Whilst it is a relief that we may be getting some respite from the planning-by-appeal experience we have had in recent years, with planning policies now carrying full weight, the sting in the tail was the much higher housing target which the developers successfully argued for being imposed. The District now needs to find space for another 2,000 dwellings over the plan period on top of those it had previously included.  The solution in the Examination was fudged, by spreading these across Category 1 and 2 settlements in an undefined manner (as a large village, Cuckfield is Category 2.  

An exercise is now currently underway, by the snappily titled Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (SHELAA), to reassess every potential site. It is therefore highly possible that the village is going to have to take an additional 200 houses on top of what is assessed in the Neighbourhood Plan.  That’s an additional 20% increase in the size of the village on a scale of the Penland Farm development, in just a few years, and can only be accommodated by further erosion of the gap between us and Haywards Heath, or in the fields south of the church.

This will have a major impact on the village.  The Parish Council will continue to argue strongly to defend our Neighbourhood Plan policies, which aim to protect our settlement distinctiveness and environment.

Burgess Hill Northern Arc

The central lynchpin of the District Plan, 3500 new houses on the northern side of Burgess Hill, is accelerating. The District secured the support of the Government Homes England department to co-ordinate the development, and it’s hoped that this will mean infrastructure is implemented in a timely manner, rather than all being left to the end (or not at all) as we’ve seen when developers are left to their own devices. 

The older Martlets centre in the town is about to be torn down to make way for a new leisure, shopping and housing area. No word on when the A2300 upgrade to the A23 will be undertaken, but funding has been secured apparently. This is crucial to try and prevent traffic through Cuckfield getting even worse than it already is.

Penland Farm

This development of 210 continues into successive phases. The three-month closure of Hanlye Lane that developer Redrow insists is required to construct the new roundabout junction, will now be carried out over the summer of 2020. By this time, the London Lane scheme in Cuckfield will have been completed (in August 2019), so hopefully it will be a little safer for pedestrians given all the additional traffic for such a long time. 

It is unfortunate that WSCC did not insist on this infrastructure being in place first, before houses were built on the space where there could have been a temporary diversion, and which would have prevented the considerable inconvenience. Profit has trampled over community disruption once again.

Planning Enforcement & Issues

There are a number of planning issues which the Parish Council is continuing to press MSDC to take, or continue, action on. 

• The Buttinghill drainage pond is still in a state of collapse, and Taylor Wimpey are continuing to do all they can to avoid doing anything about it. CPC cannot take this land over formally as intended public open space until this is resolved. We continue to pressurise. 

• MSDC have confirmed that the entrance gates to the new Denning Place development along Broad Street do not have planning permission, and these block the strategic views across Blunts Wood identified in the Neighbourhood Plan. However, MSDC have taken almost a year so far to do nothing about it.

• MSDC granted themselves planning permission again (the seventh time) in the new year for the play meadow in Courtmead Road, despite losing previous High Court Judicial Reviews. I don’t think anyone thought this saga would run for so long or cost the taxpayer so much (over £100k in professional fees, let alone Council staff time!). 

• Whilst officially just outside the parish boundary, developments at Cuckfield Golf Club continue to cause concern. We await to see the outcome of the recent application for residential use of the club house and landscaping issues. 

• Across the road, the proposed new clubhouse for Haywards Heath Rugby Club is making progress through the planning stages. 

• The Court Meadow School site is currently being sold by West Sussex County Council. The Parish Council submitted an application for this to be entered on the Assets of Community Value register, such that we could have some influence on what will happen to the site (which is allocated for housing in the Neighbourhood Plan), but unfortunately this was flatly rejected.

Planning Applications & Neighbourhood Plan Monitoring

CPC continues its monitoring of the Neighbourhood Plan policies and targets, and overall this year there haven’t been any significant breaches of the policies (aside from Denning Place and Courtmead Road highlighted above). 

Overall, the Parish Council formally responded and made recommendation on 42 applications. The number of applications for conversions and extensions have dropped off a little this year to 37 (last year was 41). Those we see are generally of good quality, design and construction and aim to retain the character and distinctiveness of the village.  New dwellings rose to 5; two of these CPC objected to but were over-ruled by the MSDC planning committee. There were nine applications in total (reduced from 12 last year) where the CPC recommendation was different to the MSDC outcome – some 20%. Members of the planning committee assess each of these now to identify any particular reasons and trends.  

Whilst there have been no significant Planning Appeals this year, the Parish Council has also submitted written responses to the Planning Inspectorate on a number of cases.  Further details on all the Neighbourhood Plan policies, monitoring and targets can be found on the Planning stand at the back of the hall.

Just a reminder that there is a ten-minute item at the beginning of each planning committee agenda for anyone in the parish to raise any planning related issues. See website for details.