There were a lot of questions and not enough answers when Homes England held a number of exhibitions laying out plans for 10,000 homes west of Ifield.
The exhibitions boasted huge maps of the area as well as information boards laying out why the site had been chosen and outlining other projects the government’s housing agency had overseen.
But they really offered very little detail.
If approved, the scheme would bring three new neighbourhoods, made up of 10,000 homes – 35 per cent of which would be classed as affordable. There would be primary and secondary schools, community facilities, up to 50 per cent green space and a western relief road.
The relief roads was one of the areas where exhibition staff were rather vague when it came to details.
When asked about the route, they knew it would join the A264 but weren’t confident about where the other end would lead.
One pointed roughly at the County Oak roundabout on one of the maps.
When it was mentioned that that road was already regularly choked with traffic, without adding thousands more cars, they said it would be ‘worked on’.
Another question raised by several visitors to the exhibitions was that of employment. Homes England said the scheme would bring 10,000 new jobs but many were dubious as to where they would be found.
The other huge concern was flooding.
The area is a flood zone and plans to build on the site have been turned down in the past.
But, when asked how that problem would be tackled this time, there were more vague answers about flood alleviation works, but nobody seemed to know what they would involve.
Aidan Zeall, of the Ifield Society, was one of those who had been hoping for more answers.
He said: “We’ve attended a number of these sessions now and the consistent message we’re getting from people who have attended is Homes England at this point in time seem unable to answer even the most basic of questions.
“They don’t know the local area, they don’t know some of the issues involved in terms of flooding, transport, infrastructure, GP surgery issues.
“Most people are very, very upset, displeased and annoyed at the lack of concrete answers to their questions.”
There were, of course, supporters of the scheme. A number have pointed out the need for more homes in Crawley and Horsham, calling for them to be both attractive and affordable.
But the main feelings so far seem to be concern and frustration.
One person asked how already stretched emergency services and GPs would cope with the demand from 10,000 more homes.
Others focused on the fact the new homes would be on Horsham’s side of the boundary but Crawley would take the pressure.
Another said: “The plans provided as part of this consultation were far too vague, to enable members of the public to provide useful comment on the proposals.”
The scheme rests on whether Horsham District Council will allocate the site for housing in its Local Plan, which will guide development in the area up until 2036.
The council’s cabinet will be asked to approve a draft plan later this month.
Ifield residents have been invited to a Talk Ifield meeting about the Ifield West proposals. It will be held on Wednesday January 22 from 7-8.30pm at Elim Church, in The Mardens.
By Karen Dunn, local democracy reporter