Hundreds of homes planned in West Sussex is the largest development recently allowed in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the entire country, according to a new report.
Thakeham Homes’ application for 600 units was approved by Mid Sussex District Council on land east of Brighton Road, on the edge of Pease Pottage, in November 2016.
The development includes a new home for Crawley’s St Catherine’s Hospice, which was one of the main reason councillors gave for approving the scheme, given the harm to the landscape and the High Weald AONB.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has released a report this week, which shows an 82 per cent increase in the number of new homes approved across England’s 34 AONBs in the past five years.
The largest scheme was the Pease Pottage site.
Kia Trainor, a director at the CPRE’s Sussex branch, described being ‘shocked and saddened at this desecration of our most beautiful landscape’.
She added: “Sussex is an attractive place to live and work and this means that demand for housing is high, but we should not be sacrificing these outstanding landscapes for executive homes which don’t even address local housing.”
The National Planning Policy Framework states that great weight should be given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty of AONBs, which along with broads and national parks, have the highest status of protection.
Guidance suggests that planning permission should only be granted in these areas in exceptional circumstances, which are demonstrated to be in the public interest.
In light of the report ‘Beauty betrayed: How reckless housing development threatens England’s AONBs’, the CPRE is urging the Government to protect celebrated landscapes from mass housing developments.
This comes as Government consulting looking to increase housebuilding across the country closed.
The proposals would see a number of areas in West Sussex face sharp rises in their housing targets, with one council warning the changes would create a ‘perfect storm’ of undelivery then resulting in indiscriminate development.
Horsham District Council approved its local plan in 2015, with an annual target of 800 homes a year, but in its formal response to the consultation the authority suggested the Government was asking it to increase this to 1,173 per annum.
Meanwhile Mid Sussex District Council is in the late stages of adopting a plan, with a housing target to 876 homes a year up to 2023/24, and then 1,090 dwellings per annum up to 2031 subject to environmental assessments.
But the consultation suggests its housing need is 1,016 homes a year between 2016 and 2026, meaning its actual housing target could be even higher.
Similarly Arun District Council, which has a housing target of 1,000 in its draft plan, is listed in the consultation document as having a housing need number of 1,199 homes a year.
Arun’s response to the consultation says: “Whilst it is welcomed that there will be a standard formula which will mean that excessive debates and scrutiny are avoided and more certainty in plan making is created, it is considered that the results of this approach for Arun are completely unrealistic and unachievable.”
John Kay, also from CPRE Sussex, described how the approach was ‘doomed to fail’.
He added: “It just isn’t compatible with the business model of our market house builders, who will never build so many houses that the prices fall.
“That is their biggest operating risk, and a situation they will use every effort to avoid.
“What is needed is a mechanism to ensure the allocated and sustainable sites are actually delivered. There is nothing in these proposals to help. In fact this particular proposal would be counter-productive.”