A SHOWGROUND’S plans to sell off village land for housing has sparked anger.

The South of England Agricultural Society which owns the South of England Showground in Ardingly intends to sell five hectares of overflow car park land for a 70-home development.

But Michael Brown of the Campaign to Protect Rural England said the project would be too large for the village to take.

“Because the site is within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we’ve been concerned about the size and scale of the development,” he said.

“We want the development to be smaller with more affordable houses for local people.

“The original plan was for 100 houses.

“But we would like it to be smaller still.”

Mr Brown said the site was too exposed for a major development.

And he warned roads across the village would have to be expanded to deal with traffic generated by the project.

Ardingly Parish Council has previously objected to the development because of its potential impact on the village.

Villagers are concerned as the land is home to hedgehogs, swallows and bats.

The field is also used by St Peter’s Primary School and Scout groups.

But South of England Agricultural Society chief executive Iain Nicol said the site’s sale would boost the society’s community programmes.

“The proposed development is part of the society’s long-term plans for the future sustainability of the society,” he said.

“It will allow the society to fulfil its charitable remit of funding and supporting agricultural education and showcasing the countryside and related industries to the public.

“Any proceeds arising from any future sale of the site would be used to ensure the long-term vision of the society’s charitable remit is achieved.

“In 2018, the South of England Agricultural Society formally submitted 5.16 hectares of land on the showground, known as ‘Red Car Park’, to Mid Sussex District Council for consideration for future residential development.”

Mr Nicol said he would seek to get planning permission before selling the site.

“The society has appointed Savills to advise the trustees and Charterhouse Strategic Land has been appointed to promote the site with the aim of securing planning consent prior to any sale of the land, if granted,” he said.

“The society is working with parish councillors and the local community to keep them updated with progress.

“The society will hold holding a public consultation for Ardingly residents.”