Crawley should ‘march its tanks on Mid Sussex’ over plans for 600 homes and a new hospice on the outskirts of the town.
Developer Thakeham Homes is seeking permission for the units and a new facility for St Catherine’s Hospice on land east of Brighton Road, Pease Pottage.
Although Mid Sussex District Council will make the final decision, Crawley Borough Council’s Development Control Committee unanimously voted to oppose the application on Monday night (February 1).
Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield), CBC’s cabinet member for planning, said: “We are going to march our tanks on into Mid Sussex and make them understand what we think about this application.”
He called proposals ‘completely unacceptable’ and added: “It’s a shame Mid Sussex have been struggling with their local plan and have decided to just plonk their unmet need on our boundaries with no notice whatsoever.”
After the debate Francis Guidera (Con, Tilgate) said: “It was not a vote against a new hospice.”
Plans were submitted in a hybrid application, with developers seeking outline permission for the entire scheme and full permission for the hospice, 156 of the homes, shop, cafe, and community facility.
Planning officers recommended the committee object due to the scheme’s impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), inadequate infrastructure, the site’s isolated location, poor connectivity to both Crawley and Pease Pottage, and its low density and poor layout.
They went on to explain that the application was premature as the site had only been recently included in MSDC’s local plan and its planning merits not been tested at examination by a planning inspector.
Duncan Crow (Con, Furnace Green), leader of the Conservative group, labelled proposals ‘expansion of Crawley by stealth’ and felt it would be an erosion of Crawley’s rural fringe.
He added: “It will totally change the dynamic of Pease Pottage.”
Meanwhile Martin Stone (Con, Ifield) explained that junction 11 of the M23 was already difficult and proposals could create ‘horrendous’ traffic problems.
Geraint Thomas (Lab, Northgate) said there were already major drainage issues going east towards Tilgate Lake, and Cllr Guidera added: “Tilgate Park is the jewel in Crawley’s crown. We do not build on it for a reason.
“It’s quite galling for a neighbouring authority to build somewhere which might impact it and potentially damage it.”
Raj Sharma (Lab, Southgate) said he wanted to see an expanded St Catherine’s Hospice but described everything in the application as ‘wrong’.
The charity, currently based in Malthouse Road, Southgate, has 18 inpatient beds, but proposals would give it a new 24-bed facility at Pease Pottage.
When plans were unveiled last year Giles Tomsett, chief executive at St Catherine’s Hospice, said: “We want to support those who need us most, for many years to come.
“We hope the public will support us in our bid to care for even more people in our community, through engaging with our proposals for this site and helping us to raise additional funds to realise our plans.”