Local MPs made up most of the sparse audience for the half-hour debate initiated by the MP for Arundel and South Downs, Andrew Griffith.
Andrew began with a bold statement of the issue:
"right now so many of my constituents from Adversane to West Grinstead, Barnham to Wineham, and in villages of every letter of the alphabet in between, are having their lives blighted by the prospect of inappropriate and unsustainable development."
His heaviest criticism was aimed at the algorithm that will determine how many houses Horsham has to build. The algorithm requires Horsham to increase construction from the current level of 800 houses per year to 1,715 houses, a number which Horsham District Council considers wholly unrealistic. Andrew argued that piling even more growth on to the south-east in this way goes against the Government's stated "levelling up" agenda:
"perhaps not for the first time this summer, well-meaning ministerial intent has been sabotaged by a “mutant algorithm” cooked up in the wet market of Whitehall"
He also raised strongly the neglected issue of building on floodplains:
"the algorithm must only work in dry weather, as much of my constituency lies on the floodplains of the Rivers Arun, Adur and Rother, something that even a cursory look at the lacework of blue lines on an Ordnance Survey map would reveal. Anyone relying on the Environment Agency’s narrow definition of flood risk will spend much of their winter bewildered by the waters lapping around their waist, as residents of Pulborough, Fittleworth and Henfield know all too well."
He urged the Government to adjust the housing numbers formula to allow not just for national parks and areas of natural beauty but for a broader category of floodplains, high quality agricultural land and vital green corridors for wildlife.
Andrew was explicit about the problems that are being caused by the Mayfield new town proposal
The perfect example of this blight is Mayfield Market Town, which has impacted 27,000 residents across 17 parishes for seven years, dating back to 2013. Residents, through Locals Against Mayfield Building Sprawl and the inter-parish group, have held 73 meetings, and have had to raise and spend £140,000 to fund barristers and commission experts’ reports on a scheme that, to the best of my knowledge, not a single elected person or layer of government in West Sussex has ever supported.
Instead he advocated supporting the site west of Ifield being promoted by Homes England for up to 10,000 homes, another proposal that is heavily contested by local residents as that area is also prone to flooding.
Andrew proposed that we should do more with brownfield sites, including redevelopment of the Shoreham cement works, which he said could easily provide more than 2,000 quality apartment homes.
He appealed for more regeneration in London, including commercial to residential conversions on a grand scale, building up not out.
MPs for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) then weighed in with lengthy speeches on the housing challenges faced by their own areas. Constrained by the South Downs on one side and the sea on the other, they are already having to build up (as at the old Aquarena site) and fill in gaps between settlements as proposed by Persimmon Homes at Goring.
Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, was not present for the debate. Responding on behalf of the Government, Minister Christopher Pincher re-iterated the Government's proposals and said he had listened keenly to the contributions in the debate. He expressed himself confident that our beautiful countryside and heritage will be protected, preserved and enriched in the decades to come.
Watch Andrew's speech here
Read the transcript here
View and Comment on the Planning White Paper
Make your own views known on our Facebook page
The views expressed in this article are those of the Campaign to Protect Rural Henfield and do not necessarily represent those of Henfield Hub CIC