Above Photo by RWCS Photographics

Mayfield (shown in pink below) is one of 9 possible new towns included in Horsham District Council's consultation on the new Local Plan which has to take effect from November. People have until 30th March to comment on the proposals.

The public meeting opened with a powerful video showing the flooding of the River Adur in December 2019 at Mock Bridge and in the area proposed for Mayfield.

Jeff Ziegler, chairman of the campaign group LAMBS, explained that they do not object to new housing: more housing is needed. Rather, they object to the developer-led planning system and building in the wrong place. The onus is now on us to show that this is the wrong place for a new town.

Jeff continued that the key focus of the meeting would be on how to object. It is important that people draw on their own experience of flooding, traffic, transport issues etc. in writing their objections. A series of speakers then provided ideas on the issues that people might like to raise.

Mims Davies, MP for Mid-Sussex, knows the area well. Indeed, she once worked at the Bull so she is very familiar with the flooding problems. Mims stressed that personal experience is the key to objecting but the points mde must be must also be valid planning objections. Flooding is rising up the political agenda and Andrew Griffith has raised the issue in Parliament this week.

Trevor Browning recalled that Mock Bridge has been closed several times in recent years because of flooding. Roads are vulnerable not just houses and Mock Bridge is a key access route for the Mayfield area.

Trevor reminded people that flooding can come from the river itself or from poor drainage when there is heavy rainfall. So when it is claimed there is no flooding, they are often only talking about river flooding. He asked people to tell Horsham about the impact surface water flooding has on them personally. The Wheatsheaf pub, for example, has to pump out its cellar regularly.

Sea level rise will make matters worse as the river is tidal right up to Shermanbury. Mayfield talk about Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) but SUDS are difficult to implement on clay, and fallible.

Mayfield will also affect the viability of Henfield as a market village. What will be the impact on local people who currently walk to the shops, he asked, if High Street businesses are forced to close?

Anthony Watts Williams, a founder of LAMBS pointed out that the Mayfield proposal keeps moving. The original proposal was in the A23 corridor around Hickstead but it has crept closer to Henfield and is now only a couple of fields away.

The transport requirements are fundamentally unsustainable. Up to 10 junctions and links could be overloaded with traffic. Two additional bus routes are proposed - one to Hassocks station via Hurstpierpoint and one to Crawley, taking about an hour but this is totally inadequate for the likely need

It is claimed that there is little of ecological value so it’s easy to increase by 10%. The biodiversity report commissioned by LAMBS contradicts this totally, showing a high number of legally protected and threatened species. Sussex Wildlife Trust say the ecology of the district is severely threatened by this proposal.

SDNP have been asked to look at implications for views from the park and consider it will be especially damaging to the views from Devils Dyke.

Pauline McBride owns Sussex Prairie Gardens, in the centre of the Mayfield area. She and Paul had started the gardens in in 2008 and she insisted they intend to stay there! Contrary to some rumours, they will not sell!

20,000 visitors a year make a significant contribution to the Henfield economy. They come because it’s an unspoilt and pristine environment. They won't come to visit a new town.

In addition to employing staff and volunteers, the gardens also supports students with horticultural placements, and artists who exhibit in the gardens.

Andrew Griffith MP has lived here with his family for 12 years. He values the countryside, the dark skies etc. In his view, the Mayfield model of a new town on a greenfield site is outdated. We need houses in areas where people already live, where there are jobs and transport. He urged people to object and "Make sure the Council officers hear the roar!"

Nicky Earnest - chairs the Inter-Parish Group of 17 councils who are working together to object. They represent 29000 people. She argued that Mayfield do not have the land or the infrastructure they need to build the new town. If Horsham were to proceed, Horsham would have to pick up the risk.

The official projection for the plan period is that there will be 17,000 more people in Horsham. This should need about 7,000 homes - not the 17,000 being proposed.

Panel Discussion

Questions and comments from the audience came thick and fast. Are Mayfield responsible for delivering the promised schools, or doctors surgeries? Can they find staff and owners when our services are already overloaded? Are there any figures tor car accidents in Twineham and Wineham Lane? How will the country meet its agricultural needs when all the fields have gone? What about Gatwick's second runway?

A resident asked where the claims in the consultation document come from. Is there, for example, any evidence that homeworking will be the norm? Much of evidence appears to be based on statements provided by Mayfield and detailed reports are apparently confidential. No justification is given for many of the sustainability ratings.

Mike Russell from Henfield Birdwatch pointed out that environmental assessments have only been done on sites of special interest, as if nothing else matters. Birdwatch's own survey shows huge biodiversity would be lost.

Andrew responded that Mayfield is the wrong direction of travel. Food miles will affect future land use. As a society we are falling below replacement rate - the next housing strategy will need to be very different. The government plans to release £400m to encourage development on brownfield sites.

Representatives from Mayfield were believed to be present in the room and were invited to make themselves known but did not do so.

Jeff Ziegler closed the session by reminding people that LAMBS needs to raise more funds. The have spent £45,000 so far - £15,000 more than has been raised. Costs will escalate dramatically if we have to engage legal support to fight the District Plan in an inquiry. Please donate and encourage others to do so.

There are guides on the LAMBS website about how to respond and paper forms are available from Parish Office.

More information about the Horsham District Local Plan, including details of the other Henfield locations that are affected by proposed development, is available on the Henfield Hub and people should comment as they wish on whichever sites they are interested in.