Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Homes boom threat to Sussex village idyll
The Sussex countryside is among the finest in this green and pleasant land. Our villages are the subject of postcards, biscuit tins and tourism brochures. For many they represent an England that in large parts no longer exists. But our villages are under threat with thousands of homes planned for our countryside over the next decade. Ben James reports.
Residents are predicting the death of the English village with 70,000 homes planned for Sussex over the next 14 years.
And developers, hoping to cash in on one of the most affluent areas of the country, are targeting our rural regions for vast estates.
But communities are fighting back – with numerous groups establishing in an attempt to save our precious villages.
Gil Kennedy, of the Lindfield Preservation Society, said: “The fear is that these developments will mark the death of the English village.
“We worry that Sussex will turn into a mass commuter belt with our villages gradually being transformed into small towns.”
In recent months, plans for new homes have been submitted in the likes of Angmering, Thakeham, Hassocks, Lindfield and many more.
Villagers in Angmering have been battling proposals for several hundred houses having already seen their population rocket by 27% since 2000.
Neil Rogers-Davis, who runs the village website, fears the historic village will end up being engulfed by Worthing.
He said: “We’re not just a load of NIMBYS. We recognise that we need to take on our share of housing developments. But the feeling in the village is that we have already done our bit in the last decade.”
Over 700 houses are earmarked for the outskirts of the village over the next few years.
However locals fear that the infrastructure in place is insufficient.
Mr Rogers-Davis added: “These new developments are typically built on the outskirts of villages and therefore makes it difficult to integrate and create a cohesive community.”
Mid-Sussex is taking the brunt of planned developments with the likes of Lindfield and Hassocks providing excellent transport links to the capital.
In the latter, plans have been submitted for 120 homes on farming land.
London-based Woodcock Holdings has applied to convert the area around Reeds Lane, Sayers Common, into a large estate with a nursing home, community hall and two shops.
Sue Elrick, who has lived in nearby Hurstpierpoint for 17 years, said: “When you live in a village you feel you are part of something and that you are responsible for making it work.
“If it gets too big then you don’t have that personal attachment. You almost feel like it doesn’t belong to you any more and instead belongs to the authorities.”
Mrs Elrick, who is the village’s chief bell ringer and also helps with the parish magazine, added: “The problem is that the people moving to these areas are commuting to work in London and Brighton. As a result they don’t get home until very late and then don’t have time to get involved in community activities.”
Haywards Heath is also set to see huge developments with 4,500 houses planned for the town.
Further west, villages including Thakeham, Pulborough and Billingshurst are resisting plans for new developments in what is one of the most popular areas in the county.
There is no doubt that we need to build more houses.
The population of Sussex has shot up 7.6% from 2001 to 1.6m.
On top of this, groups such as Shelter have slammed past governments for their failure to build new homes.
Just a few years ago the number of new homes being built fell to its lowest peacetime level since 1924.
They argue that we now need to play catch-up.
But Georgia Wrighton, East Sussex director of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, has warned developers to be cautious.
She said: “Sussex is home to some of the most beautiful villages in the country and developers must take this into account.
“For us it is about the right development in the right place and local people must be involved from a very early stage.”
Threat of development
The villages of Sussex are regarded as destinations in themselves. Be it the antique shops of Petworth, the heritage of Amberley or the historic buildings of Billingshurst, tourists flock to them spending their valuable money in the local economy.
However, with the threat of over development, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has warned that the tourism trade could be irreversibly damaged.
Georgia Wrighton, director of CPRE, said: “Developers need to take care to protect the character of these villages.
“If you take somewhere like Petworth. They have managed to create a sustainable stream of tourism which must be protected.
“We understand that there is a need for housing but equally we need to protect these special places.
“For us, residents, who know their areas best, must be involved in plans at the earliest opportunity.”
Lindfield as a settlement can be traced back thousands of years.
It has witnessed wars, various rulers, the industrial revolution and population booms, but still the Mid-Sussex location has managed to retain its village status.
Its name is thought to have come from the Saxon word Lindefeldia, meaning open land with lime trees.
It was an important centre for the local sheep trade in the 1500s and boasted a thriving market for many centuries.
However, the village is now under threat, with hundreds of new houses planned.
Gil Kennedy, from the Lindfield Preservation Society, said: “The fear is that schemes like this will be the death of the English village.
“Villagers like ours are going to turn into small towns – only without the infrastructure.”
Developer Wates has submitted blueprints for 230 homes on greenfield land off Gravelye Lane in the village.
This is on top of the high-density estates that have already been accepted.
Mr Kennedy added: “There are two questions people should be asking. Firstly, what is the need for the development? More often than not there is no local need at all. Secondly, if indeed there is a need, is it an appropriate development?”
The village, which is a three-times winner of Sussex’s best kept village contest, is centred around a picturesque pond.
It is regarded by locals as the quintessential English village, with a celebrated local butcher’s, thriving pubs, a community hall and cricket club.
However, the Preservation Society reckons |that the current developments will put |that all at risk, with an estimated 1,000 new residents increasing the current population by 20%.
Mr Kennedy added: “It would put 600 additional cars on our roads. This kind of speculative development is grossly disproportionate to the scale of our village and the capacity of its infrastructure.
“This is an attractive part of the country for developers. We are surrounded by beautiful countryside and it is a commutable distance to London.
“If you are the head of a developers and answerable to your shareholders, it is an obvious part of the country to target. It makes sense.
“But it just isn’t appropriate.”
John Jesson, from the society, added: “It is a lovely place to live and we just hope that those making the decisions think about the potential impact on our village.”
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- Victim "fabricated" sex assault story - day eleven of Albion players' trial
- Dad-of-two was visiting brother and nephew when he was gunned down in Hove
- UPDATE: A27 closed in both directions near Worthing after serious accident
- Sussex artists put their skills on show
- Sussex's sewage will become drinking water under new plans