The National Planning Policy Framework, the background rules that determine all planning decisions state that "heritage assets are an irreplaceable resource and we must conserve them in a manner appropriate to their significance".
Heritage once destroyed or harmed can never be replaced. It is an accepted position that the preservation of Heritage buildings and their historic settings is the sign not just of good planning but of a mature and caring society.
Mid Sussex has only 60 houses of Grade II*, the highest award normally given to residential housing.
Hassocks' best known Grade II* House is Ockley Manor, directly opposite the site recently adopted by Mid Sussex District Council for 500 homes to be built.
Ockley Manor originated in the 13th Century, with the current house being built in the 17th Century, with a Georgian frontage added around 1730. It has three Historic England (formerly English Heritage) listings:
Ockley Manor - Grade II*
Ockley Manor Barn - Grade II
Ockley Manor Dovecote - Grade II
Ockley Manor Dovecote sits around 100m from the edge of the proposed development. It is not referred to in any of the Mid Sussex District Council deliberations or documents relating to their decision.
An inspector from Historic England (English Heritage) visited Ockley Manor in 2015 and in noting that the current house has stood for 350 years, in a largely rural setting, with far reaching rural views, the inspector remarked that: “Due to mature landscaping on the southern boundary and that Ockley Farm and open countryside exist on the other sides, the Manor House enjoys a delightful secluded setting with few urban intrusions, reminiscent of its former historic role as a country estate”
Decisions to change that setting should not be taken ‘on the hoof’, within just a few months of a building company saying “we’ll build you 500 homes”, and any local planning authority, such as MSDC should have greater respect for the Heritage of our country.
The fields that Mid Sussex District Council have decided so hurriedly to designate as development land for 500 houses have been part of the Manor Fields for centuries, only relatively recently being split off as separate farm land.
Plans of the fields dating from the 17th Century show the Manor House being surrounded by its Ockley Estate. And so it has remained for 350 years, until Mid Sussex District Council rushed through a half-baked scheme for putting 500 houses on the land, in a meeting lasting just 1 hour and 18 minutes.
Not much of that time, if any, was given to questioning what Heritage was being lost for ever by its very rash decision.