Image credit: Don Hollingsworth

Our village of Henfield is under attack.

Like Viking raiders encircling an Anglo-Saxon settlement, profit-hungry developers are eyeing the village ready to snatch away our greenbelt fields for new housing developments. Our armoury is weak, the absence of a 'Made' plan has left the gate wide open and the government's prioritising of ‘sustainable’ land close to village centres, means that developers now have a good chance of securing planning permission. They are waiting to feast on sections of countryside without moral responsibility to local wildlife or our peaceful neighbourhoods that will be impacted long term by their proposed schemes.

At the same time Horsham District Council, financially burnt from a failed but admirable battle with developers in the law courts, may not have the financial clout to withstand another appeal and with aggressive central government housing quotas to achieve, will be more willing to work with developers to approve plans. Without sufficient brownfield sites to meet our village quota, tension is building to extend Henfield's existing built up area boundary to accommodate more housing.

Classified as a Category 1 settlement, Henfield is deemed to have adequate services, employment and transport infrastructure to support future housing growth. It would seem irrelevant to HDC that our banks have closed, that we have a limited evening/weekend bus service to larger towns, over-flowing village car parking and access to a main train line service is a 20 minute drive away?

Beyond all of these factors, our road infrastructure is feeling the strain of a
growing population. As a large village (arguably small town), new rat runs are forming along previously quieter roads. Accelerating trip generation from cars, contractor and construction vehicles and delivery vans is causing daily congestion at commuter times particularly clogging up the narrow and historic Nep Town Road and the junction of Church Street/High Street (who hasn’t had to sit and wait for lorries ambitiously shunting backwards and forwards to turn off into Church Street?) The higher traffic volume is causing frustration for drivers; speed and road rage is certainly a growing issue on residential roads, the high street and the main roads leading out of Henfield.

So with a potential 32 brownfield and greenfield plots for development over the next 13 years, who is looking at the ‘Masterplan’ for Henfield? Developers may submit reports and surveys from hired planning consultants to ensure all the right ‘boxes’ are ticked to get approval. But what about the accumulative effect on the village of multiple sites over the next few years? Applicants can demonstrate on an individual basis that they will 'incentivise' homeowners to walk or cycle and leave the car at home but once built the accumulative effect of multiple new housing developments becomes apparent. Developers are not made culpable and the burden of introducing traffic calming and safety measures across the village falls on the council to resolve and the taxpayer to fund.

Fairfax Properties, a locally based developer with City connections are planning a 42 medium-sized development in the SW corner of Henfield at the junction of Nep Town Road, Sandy Lane and Dropping Holms. They recently distributed colourful leaflets and promises of an exciting housing scheme but those promises appear empty. The development scheme will be designed with modern materials, out of keeping with surrounding listed properties and the immediate neighbourhood.Their plans ignore the value of the land as a former local amenity and their actions are irreverent to the disturbance of the natural environment.

I’m pleased to say that the leaflet motivated me to join the local action group, Campaign to Protect Rural Henfield (‘CPRH’) who you can follow on their Facebook page. A group of enthusiastic residents that want the opportunity to express their concerns about development in their area, raise valid questions collectively and influence the longer term future of our growing village. It's important to challenge what’s being forced upon us. It’s good to ask questions.