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It is with sad and heavy hearts that we have to inform you that the Planning Inspector has allowed the Penland Farm Appeal. Sadly this is the end of the road for our campaign as neither MSDC or we can appeal. The decision means that permission has been granted for the development of the Penland Farm site in accordance with the revised Outline Planning Application submitted by Catesby and the Trustees of Borde Hill back in July of last year (this is when the roundabout location was revised). 

We are very disappointed in the decision but respect it, bearing in mind the current state of planning legislation in the UK today. We have always been aware that we were on the back foot as MSDC has no District Plan in place; HHTC has no Neighbourhood Plan in place and MSDC cannot demonstrate the all-important “5 year housing supply”.

Our argument was always that, despite this, the NPPF was on our side and supported our objections and concerns regarding the development of this greenfield site. We strongly believed, and still do, that any planning decision would be largely subjective and would rest on whether the protection afforded within the NPPF outweighed the lack of Local Authority Plans. The NPPF is a relatively new document though and its interpretation is continually evolving. Any planning decision based on this needs to take regard of current understanding. Unfortunately for us, and others like us around the country, the interpretation is largely being driven by powerful developers who have money and time to invest in insuring that the outcomes are in their favour.

It is extremely saddening that the wishes of the majority of local people are often ignored in these situations and developers are effectively permitted to pick and choose which parts of our countryside they wish to build on and it is predominantly our green fields that they choose, for it is there they can be assured maximum profit.

We would like to extend our utmost and sincere thanks and appreciation to all the people who supported and enabled this campaign over the past years. Without all the extremely kind and generous donations of your time and money we would never have been able to get as far as we did. Despite the loss at this late stage, we truly believe we have achieved a tremendous amount. We gave the developer a real run for their money and showed that we will not roll over and accept what we believe to be wrong, without a fight.  It all goes to show that with strength, courage and determination, communities can pull together, make a stand and take on the “big boys”.

Finally, we would ask that you do not lose heart at this announcement, there are still battles to be fought and changes to be made in our town and, as we have demonstrated, the people in Haywards Heath can fight and fight well. There are other developments in the pipeline, particularly Birchen Fields which also deserve and need support. We may have lost the Penland Farm battle, but we have learned how to fight, let’s use this newfound strength to help others make a difference!


Where is Penland Farm?

Penland Farm is a 72.15 acre area of attractive rolling countryside on the fringe of the High Weald AONB and the Grade II* listed Borde Hill Parkland. The area is part agricultural (at least grade 3) and part woodland (some of which is designated Ancient). It lies on the western side of Penland Road and runs from Harlands School, north to Hanlye Lane (click here to see a map). It is the northern part of a region of open countryside which provides and enhances the distinctiveness between the victorian town of Haywards Heath and the medieval village of Cuckfield.

What is being proposed?

Borde Hill Estate, the owners of Penland Farm, are seeking to build a very substantial housing development of 210 houses on the site. They have engaged three companies to push this development forward (Catesby Property Group, Barton Willmore and Curtin & Co) which demonstrates how determined they are!

Why now?

On 25 March 2013 the South East Plan was (partially) revoked by the government. The revoked elements are to be replaced by council District and Neighbourhood Plans.

The SE Plan contained a requirement for MSDC to provide 17,100 new homes within the district. The Mid Sussex District Plan proposes a reduction in this number to 10,600. However, in the absence of adopted District and Neighbourhood Plans, there exists a planning “void”. Developers are able to propose developments on sites not included in these plans by pushing the requirement to meet the old number of new homes and that is what they are doing throughout the Mid Sussex area.

Greenfield sites are particularly attractive to developers as they provide the maximum profit and landowners are eager to realise the value of land they own by putting it forward for development.

We have already controversially seen planning permission granted for housing on greenfield sites in Lindfield, Lucastes Road and Ardingly Rd in Cuckfield.

More worrying is the current rash of planning applications for land on the north of Haywards Heath. Other local sites are under threat; Sunte House - where Banner Homes have tried to get planning permission to build houses on the south of the site (this was refused by MSCD but Banner may yet appeal) and Birchen Fields where Crest Nicholson have submitted an application to build 48 dwellings. Borde Hill were also, until recently, looking to develop Sugworth Farm and have another parcel of land for sale too. If the Penland Farm planning applications is approved it will set a dangerous precendent  and will open the flood gates to other developments in the area and the greenfields on the northern edge of our town will be lost forever.

Why shouldn't Penland Farm be built on?

In 2007 MSDC & WSCC reviewed the Penland Farm site. To quote their report (which you can read here), they concluded that...

"Development in this location would not be acceptable for the following reasons:-

  • Impact on strategic gap.
  • No evidence that flood risk issues can be resolved satisfactorily on site.
  • No evidence that development could be carried out without harming sensitive ecological interests in the vicinity of the site.
  • No evidence that the development could be assessed safely or that significant highway issues on the surrounding network could be easily addressed."

None of those reasons have changed in the six years since. Although it is recognised that demand for housing in SE of England has continued to grow, the emerging Neighbourhood Plan for Haywards Heath demonstrates that housing requirements can be meet by building only on brownfield sites and not on our important greenfield sites.

Penland Farm is an attractive landscape of mixed arable fields and woodland not far from the designated Nature Reserve of Blunts Wood and Paige’s Meadow. The site itself has a significant area of ancient woodland and a variety of valuable habitats which are home to many rare species of plants, animals and birds. For more details of the ecological value of the site, please click here to see a brief summary of a report recently written on the area by the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

The site borders the High Weald AONB and the Grade II* listed Borde Hill Parkland. Indeed, the Local Plan inspector commented in 2007 that he considered the site scored badly in sustainability terms, would entail the loss of good quality agricultural land and would be "a highly obtrusive and obvious outward expansion of Haywards Heath in to an area of attractive countryside, causing serious damage to the character and appearance of the area".

It is a valuable stretch of countryside, forming an important expanse of open countryside between victorian Haywards Heath and medieval Cuckfield village. The gap, at its widest, is less than a mile and should not be reduced further if we are to prevent coalescence of the two settlements and preserve their character and individuality.

The site itself is prone to flooding from natural underground springs and streams. These streams feed down into the Scrase Bridge Stream which has been the cause of flooding in Harlands Road and Burell Road in recent years. It is highly probable that development of the site may exacerbate these problems

Both Balcombe Road and Hanlye Lane already take large volumes of traffic, particularly at peak times. In 2007, West Sussex County Council stated that "On the basis of the information provided by the Head of Highways and Transport, [it] is not satisfied that the site is sustainable in transport terms or that adequate access can be provided to the existing highway". Traffic volumes have since increased with the development of Bolnore Village and the opening of junction 10A on the M23. Accidents are becoming a frequent occurrence on Balcombe Road and the London Road roundabout in Cuckfield is already at capacity. Add to this another 400 plus cars and you can see that things can only get worse.

Additionally there is the negative impact on our other local infrastructure. Our schools are already oversubscribed, as are our health services. The condition of our roads continues to deteriorate and train services to London are full to the brim with commuters. What will adding even more households do to these already overstretched facilities?

What is being done to oppose the development?

Penland Farm Action Group (PFAG) has been formed, comprising local residents as well as others who use the footpaths, enjoy the area and recognise the importance of preserving the landscape. We are now a group of over 500 families representing around 2000 people and growing steadily as more people become aware of the situation and pledge their support.

We are actively engaging with parish councils, residents groups, CPRE and numerous other societies and associations and are generating support for our cause. We have written many letters to our local councillors and MPs stating our concerns and reason for objection. We are also working on a formal submission in opposition to the planning application when it is submitted.

If you would like to join us and help us fight this planning travesty please register your interest  here.

Thank you – The Penland Farm Action Group.

A carpet of bluebells in the forest area of Penland Farm, Two children walking through Penland Farm, Penland Farm in the snow, View through an archway of forest