In March 2017 the South Downs National Park Authority put forward a completely new proposal for future housing in the Parish, in the latest draft of its Local Plan for the Park as a whole. In September 2015 it had replaced earlier land allocations made by Horsham District Council with a proposal for some 20 houses on a site adjoining Brookland Way (shown in brown on the map). The Parish Council has now been told (April 2017) that this site too has been dropped in favour of a new site, twice the size, at the other end of the same field (shown in orange). The number of houses has also been doubled to 40.
The Parish Council met with the Planning Officer responsible for land allocations in the Park on 10 April to clarify the reasons for this proposal, and how it was thought to serve the goals of the National Park. He said that on reviewing the allocations he had concluded that the Brookland Way site was too constrained. What’s more, Natural England (a Government conservation body) and the Sussex Wildlife Trust had objected that it was too close to protected areas of the Brooks. The site previously designated by Horsham on the other side of Brook Lane along the railway was no better in these respects. He accepted that the new site would block the view of the Downs from the A29, but believed that it would permit a more imaginative development, with new publicly accessible open space.
The Parish Council wanted to know why such a significant proposal had surfaced at such a late stage in the long-running development of the Local Plan, when two rounds of consultation had already been concluded. The need for some new housing was understood, and the Council had not objected to the more limited Brookland Way site. But how could the views of the Parish now be taken into account? We were assured that there would be a further 6 to 8 week round of consultation in September, before the Park Authority put its final proposals to the Secretary of State. In the meantime the Parish Council will be seeking local reactions to shape the community’s response to this new scheme.