Labour have been accused of misleading voters on campaign literature about development plans for a beauty spot in Hove.

Conservative candidates running in Hangleton and Knoll have said the party’s claim that voters should pick Labour to “protect Benfield Valley” are a “blatant lie”.

In one leaflet, former Hove MP Ivor Caplin is quoted as saying: “Benfield has been a key open space in Hangleton and Knoll and indeed the city, with its extraordinary wildlife and dog-walking. It is a great site and let’s keep Benfield open for all.”

However, Dawn Barnett pointed out that Labour has voted in favour of including the green space in the city’s development plan and described their claims as a “blatant lie”.

The Argus: Residents and environmentalists protested against plans for housing development on Benfield ValleyResidents and environmentalists protested against plans for housing development on Benfield Valley (Image: The Benfield Valley Project)

She said: “They’ve voted to build on Benfield Valley six times - they can’t deny it.

“The government has said that we’ve got to use brownfield sites first for development, and we’ve got plenty of those.

“The council are trying to take every bit of green space away and it’s crazy. 

“Of course, we need to build houses, but development on Benfield Valley wouldn’t be for local people - it would end up being for people downsizing from London.

“It’s such a relaxing place and it’s the last green lung in Hove, so I’ll keep fighting to save it.”

The Argus:

Ms Barnett also said that further development would have a significant impact on infrastructure in the area, adding further pressure on GP and dentist services.

The council’s City Plan Part Two development plan, published in October last year, includes an area of development in Benfield Valley north and south of Hangleton Lane, with the potential for roughly 100 new homes.

The plan states: “Given the relatively contained nature of Benfield Valley, it is envisaged that residential densities within the areas of development potential could be higher than those of existing surrounding residential areas.

“It is considered that development of up to three storeys might be accommodated without harm to key views and the settings of nearby listed buildings.

“It is expected that any development proposals will need to incorporate appropriate buffers, landscaping and screening.”

The Argus: A map of Benfield Valley, including the zone earmarked for housing developmentA map of Benfield Valley, including the zone earmarked for housing development

Labour have said that only a small proportion of the area has been assigned for development and that this was “forced” upon the council by the Conservative government.

A Labour spokesman said: “The government’s planning inspector forced the council to include additional sites for development in our city plan against our intentions.

“By agreeing to just five per cent of Benfield Valley to be considered for development, getting City Plan Part Two agreed has protected 93 per cent of our precious urban fringe from development threats.

“The local Conservatives’ short-sighted proposal to vote against City Plan Part Two would have made 100 per cent of Benfield Valley and all our urban fringe open targets for developers.

“Labour have always protected Benfield Valley and it should be widely acknowledged that its inclusion was not a Labour idea, but a Conservative forced demand.

“There are no plans to build on the valley and Labour are fully committed, as always, to fighting off any development, should any be presented at any point in the future.”

The Argus: Hedgehogs are among the species found at Benfield ValleyHedgehogs are among the species found at Benfield Valley (Image: Sylvia Duckworth)

Candidates standing in Hangleton and Knoll

  • Faiza Baghoth (Labour)
  • Dawn Barnett (Conservative Party)
  • Andrew Coleman (Green Party)
  • Sarah Fitzgerald (Green Party)
  • Jamie Gillespie (Independent)
  • Amanda Grimshaw (Labour)
  • Ian Harris (Reform UK)
  • John Hewitt (Labour)
  • Tim Hodges (Conservative Party)
  • Nick Lewry (Conservative Party)
  • Nigel Tart (Green Party)

A spokeswoman for the Green Party said: “A small section of Benfield Valley was identified as a potential site for development, in order to satisfy the government inspector that our City Plan met their requirements.

“This is because the government has a policy that urban fringe sites must be identified for development.

“We initially submitted a draft City Plan without the identification, but the inspector responded by telling us to identify a lot more urban fringe sites if we wanted the plan to be accepted.

“Without identifying such sites, the inspector would have rejected the plan, leaving us with no ability to protect the vast majority of greenfield sites not identified for development.

“The Conservatives have consistently misled the public, trying to suggest they are protecting greenfield sites, whereas in fact their opposition to the Plan would have left all greenfield sites unprotected.

“The added irony is the demand for urban fringe sites came directly as a result of Conservative government policy.”