St Catherine’s Hospice was a leading player for Thakeham Homes and Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) in their trouncing of Crawley Borough Council (CBC) and the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the recent Pease Pottage planning decision (Joy as hospice bid gets go-ahead, Crawley & Horley Observer 30 November 2016.)
Many will rejoice at this result as a good example of how popular emotional appeal can prevail over boring old planning policies that stand in the way of realising the dreams of a hugely respected good cause.
Others, however, looking at the bigger picture, might begin to realise that the hospice, in delivering the key to Thakeham Homes’ proposed 600 house estate that would almost certainly not otherwise have been permitted within the AONB, has opened a box of other profound and unwanted consequences for Crawley. These are foreshadowed in CBC’s objections to MSDC, and are not undone by the planning permission. The scheme fundamentally compromises Crawley’s neighbourhood planning principle – the shape, direction and type of growth that is central to CBC’s recently adopted Local Plan.
Looking at how this has come about sadly raises the question of how St Catherine’s Hospice has been drawn into such controversial territory. It rather appears that it is because the gift of land for the hospice, whilst presented and perhaps even intended as an entirely charitable act, was not given freely or unconditionally for a hospice that could have been easily accommodated on its own near M23 J11, but was tied in to a large housing development that it has long been clear would bring conflict with CBC.
The wonderful work and motivation of St Catherine’s Hospice and its dedicated staff and volunteers is beyond question. What remains to be seen, however, is the wisdom of allowing the good name of a cherished institution to be bought by a housing developer to justify a major MSDC housing allocation in the wrong place for Crawley.
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