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West Sussex housing scheme is turned down at appeal again

Greg Clark

Communities secretary Greg Clark has rejected a proposal for a significant housing and mixed-use development in Sayers Common, West Sussex. It had already been rejected by Clark’s predecessor for conflicting with a neighbourhood plan – a decision quashed by the High Court.

Former secretary of state Eric Pickles had rejected Woodcock Holdings Limited’s proposal for 120 dwellings, a community facility/office space, a care home and retail units, against the recommendation of a planning inspector.

Legal counsel for the developer argued that Pickles was wrong to view the then-emerging Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common Neighbourhood Plan (NP) as a determining factor in his decision, particularly in light of the fact that Mid Sussex District Council was unable to demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites. Pickles' refusal was quashed by the High Court in May 2015.

In redetermining the appeal, Clark disagreed with an inspector’s reccomendation that the appeal should be allowed, and found once again that the extent to which the proposal conflicted with the NP outweighed its benefits.

The NP was finalised by the council in March 2015, since inspector Jennifer Vyse issued her approval of the appeal.

Clark determined that as the appeal site lay outside of the built–up limits of Sayers Common as defined by the Mid Sussex Local Plan and was not allocated for housing, the scheme was overall not in accordance with the plan.

He accepted that, in line with Policy H1 of the NP, the scheme would be capable of being adequately drained while not increasing flood risk elsewhere, but found that contrary to this policy, the size of the scheme could not be considered to enhance the existing settlement pattern. He judged the scheme's 120 dwellings as “considerably in excess” of the proposed residential development level of the NP, which suggests that the area could accommodate 30 to 40 new dwellings during the plan period.

Clark acknowledged that the scheme would not have a significantly adverse effect upon the character and appearance of the area, but would be a sustainable development that would significantly contribute to the existing shortfall in housing supply in the area. However, he ultimately ruled that these benefits did not overcome his reasons for refusing the appeal.

Clark's full decision letter can be found here.