Anger at the 'utter devastation' of beauty spot which is ripped up

By Neil Vowles

Anger at the 'utter devastation' of beauty spot which is ripped up

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RESIDENTS are furious a beloved nature spot has been reduced “to a scene of total devastation” in preparation for studies ahead of a potential new housing development.

Nature lovers are worried local wildlife including foxes, badgers and bats may have lost their habitat after the green space next to Benfield Valley Golf Course was stripped back.

Developers said the clearance of the Hove site was needed to remove years of accumulated rubbish and to allow an accurate ecological assessment of wildlife to be carried out.

Futureform Global Investments had secured an option to purchase 45 acres of land designated for housing at Benfield Valley Golf Course.

In a prospectus by Benfield Property Management, potential investors were told proposals for 116 houses, 315 apartments, 43 custom built houses, 132 retirement apartments and bungalows and 250 homes for young people received “positive sounds” from the council.

The prospectus, offering 20 custom built plots for £50,000, said there were hopes planning consent could be granted within a year.

Valerie Axcell, of Sylvester Way, Hove, said: “They have damaged a beauty spot, ripped everything up and decimated all the wildlife. It is a scene of total devastation.

“There are birds, foxes, badgers and bats there, it’s a stepping stone to the Downs.

“How can you do an ecological survey when there’s no undergrowth left? Every bush and blade of grass has been ripped up.”

Councillor Dawn Barnett said: “There are three ward councillors and we have heard absolutely nothing, they should have told us what they were doing.

“There’s no way they are getting hundreds of homes on there, there’s no way they will be getting planning permission.

“The land should stay as it is, we need this piece of green space, we don’t want a concrete jungle.”

Graham Austin, of LCE Architects, said: “On the advice of an ecologist, much of the accumulated unsightly rubbish that was there before has now been cleared away so the ecology will actually benefit from that.

“What Futureform is doing is very exciting, housing is really needed and they have been forward thinking in using space to the benefit of the environment and community.

“The innovative approach Futureform has to the housing problem is being adopted to deliver nationally.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The owners have been clearing undergrowth around Benfield Barn in line with their long lease agreement.

“This is necessary to undertake the ecological survey of the area. We don’t have any power to protect wildlife or vegetation unless there is a planning permission with relevant conditions to enforce, which this area doesn’t have.”

GREEN SITE THAT HAS CAUGHT THE EYE OF DEVELOPERS

BENFIELD Valley has been the subject of a number of eye-catching development proposals over the years.

In 2006, a multi-million pound scheme to create a restaurant, wedding venue and 58-room hotel was unanimously rejected by councillors.

The proposals also included a golf shop, a gym, a driving range and all-weather sports pitches.

More recently, in 2014, 380 new homes were mooted at the site by French developer Bouygues Development, the firm that finished second in the bid to redevelop the King Alfred.

Part of the site is covered by the Barnfield Barn Conservation Area based around an 18th century listed barn originally connected to Benfield Manor House.

The manor was built in 1611 but demolished in 1871 to be replaced by a row of cottages for farm labourers.

Residents are still unhappy the building of the West Hove Sainsbury’s, 20 years ago, did not preserve the site from development in perpetuity.

Brighton and Hove City Council own the freehold with a 225-year lease in place dating back to 1992.

The private site, which is popular with dog walkers, has a public right of way running through it.

It is almost 200,000 square metres with almost 90,000 square metres deemed developable.

Property developer Futureform has just opened a new factory at Shoreham Port to produce up to 1,000 three-bedroom modular homes a year.