This is a great question. We think that somewhere in Mid Sussex District Council's ivory towers there must be a room with a very, very high shelf. And sitting on it is the plan that was drawn up with the assistance of well regarded planning professionals. The plant that was deliberated on by members of Hassocks Parish Council, was reported on carefully by the council to the people of Hassocks, and of course the plan on which we were all able to cast our votes, in favour of our preferred priority of developments. Proper, decent local representation.
Crucially the Neighbourhood Plan provided the framework for enough housing immediately available within the next two years to fulfil entirely the current MSDC short-fall for the whole District without them needing to countenance this 500 house plan.
The District Councillors just need to open their eyes and read what has already been put in front of them - some time ago by the people of Hassocks.
We have a stretched infrastructure already in Hassocks. We have three schools, but they are already highly committed, we have local resources that were not designed to support the size of community that already exists. They will not easily stretch to the extra demands of the Neighbourhood Plan.
They definitely will not be adequate to cope with the extraordinary demands of a further 500 houses - that's the equivalent of tacking on a whole new village to the existing creaking infrastructure.
MSDC's thoughts on that ? They weren't very exhaustive. Extraordinarily the meeting they called to discuss the main modifications to the District Plan - the main one being to spring on Hassocks a huge increase in size, almost joining it to Burgess Hill - the whole meeting (and they discussed a range of other subjects also) lasted only 1 hour and 18 minutes !
How much did they consider our schools and doctors' surgeries and our parking restrictions in the village ?
According to councillors Marples and Binks they made a number of representations expressing their concerns (before voting completely in favour of the plans). They must have had to speak fast in that very short meeting ! That meeting that has the potential to affect so many people's enjoyment of their local community.
Along with 500 houses, the promoter has suggested this development might contain a school.
Might contain a school, note. It is very probable planning applications would come forward that won't contain a school in the earliest phases.... why would they bother to do so ? MSDC are so desperate to meet the housing targets they have to hit by 2019 that they will not make it a requirement for building a school in that first phase, and unquestionably there will be later complications with a school.
Not to mention that a primary school, for young children, 25 minutes' walk from the centre of the Village - without doubt most children will be driven to school by car, presumably along Ockley Lane, a narrow lane from both ends, not designed and not suitable for the additional traffic volumes that will be created by the vehicle movements for 500 additional homes, let alone those created by a primary school.
The plan is so poorly thought through, no time has been devoted to correctly evaluating the scheme - quite clearly, it has gone from first suggestion to a very hasty adoption by MSDC in just two months.
Hassocks already has the worst traffic related Air Quality problems in the whole of the Mid Sussex District. The cross-roads at Stonepound fail minimum standards for air quality and the levels of toxins are already dangerous.
There can be no doubt that 500 extra houses on the edge of Hassocks will create additional traffic to the whole road network around Hassocks, and at a time when the District Council should be taking action to reduce the level of air-borne toxins in the community, instead they've dumped another 500 houses on the people of Hassocks just because they're in trouble with the Planning Inspector and need to find a few more houses quick to fulfil their quotas for 2019.
The councillors care not one jot for the local community, and those councillors representing Hassocks wards who voted in favour of the 500 houses, in the face of the additional impact on infrastructure, traffic and air quality might like to question whether more time should have been spent on these very important and very urgent considerations.
We will expect the Planning Inspector to take in to account the behaviour of Mid Sussex District Council in the very short period from July to September 27th and especially the actions of the Councillors at that meeting of 27th September.
They showed an extremely scant regard for the people of Hassocks and a breath-taking rashness in arriving at the decision they did.
The foisting of 500 houses on a community like Hassocks is not a decision that should be taken in such a casual and desultory manner. This haphazard local planning must be fought tooth and nail.