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This blog is all about the residents of Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint trying to Protect Ham Fields. Ham Fields is the ancient name of the green space which remains between Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint, the so called Strategic Gap, also referred to as land to the west of London Road, Hassocks.

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Saturday, 22 November 2014

Decision and No Decision

As you know there were two planning committee meetings in the last week.

The Parish Council Planning Committee Meeting was on Tuesday night.  Ian Tovey spoke in the public participation section.  He highlighted the original reasons for refusal of the application that of traffic congestion and pollution which would be made worse by this development.  He went on to remind Councillors that the Secretary of State had upheld the refusal of planning permission for College Lane as the local gap still served a valid planning purpose and could be accorded significant weight.

Your Parish Councillors resolved to continue their refusal and objection to this application and that they would urge Mid Sussex District Council to do likewise.  Councillor Les Campbell agreed to represent the Parish Council at the District Planning Committee which took place on Thursday.  They also resolved to obtain further information about taking a more active role in the Appeal process.  An interim Planning Meeting has been arranged for 10:00 am on Tuesday 25 November 2014 to consider the information available.

The District Planning Committee was a little different.  The pubic were not allowed to make any representation to the meeting, something which many of us consider undemocratic.  In fact our Councillors had to work hard just so that they could speak.  We were told that as they were reconsidering a previous decision there was no requirement to allow the public time to speak.

Nevertheless Councillors Campbell, Hatton and Petch spoke for three minutes each and put forward robust, compelling and persuasive arguments.  They were also joined by our Ward Cllr Peter Martin.

We heard a statement from the Case Officer which was no more than the report she had already publicised.  The Appellants plans for the redesign of Stonepound Crossroads was revealed.  I noticed that in fact the plans were published on the planning portal late on 18 November 2014, one wonders when in fact the Officers received it and why it was not publicised in time for Councillors and the public to examine.

The plan, it seems, is to widen Stonepound in Hurst Road and tinker with the traffic light sequence.  We also learnt that the traffic light software was actually updated on 15 July 2014 and the sequencing "improved".  You might want to drop an e-mail to Councillors to let them know how these improvements have gone.

District Councillors questioned the Case Officer and the Highways Authority representative.  To describe their performance as lack lustre and without substance is not overstating the paucity of their responses.  The Highways Authority representative was asked on several occasions to quantify the improvements the scheme were supposed to provide - he was completely unable to.  The Environmental Health Officer was equally unable to provide anything specific.  Councillors were asked to simply take Officers word for it.

Thankfully Councillors decided that this was not sensible or credible in the face of scrutiny.  They resolved to defer any decision until the next available District Planning Committee meeting, which is 11 December 2014.  Officers were asked to provide data which can be examined to substantiate their assertions.  Interestingly we were told that data would not be available from the Highways Authority for at least three weeks, which will be 11 December.  How can any independent analysis be made if this is the case?  You might like to ask the Case Officer.

Councillors did ask Officers what independent analysis had been made of the claims, the answer was none.  Councillors suggested that MSDC should undertaken their own surveys and conduct their own analysis.

We must conclude that the Appeal will continue.  Please do make sure the Planning Inspector has your comments before 3 December 2014.

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