Plans for 1,500 new homes and a business park in a tiny Mid Sussex village have been branded "common assault" by residents.

Bryant Homes wants to build the houses in Sayers Common, near Hurstpierpoint, increasing the population of the village from a few hundred to several thousand. But village leaders today vowed to fight the scheme "tooth and nail".

The proposals include about 800 new homes initially and another 700 after 2006, along with a business park creating up to 400 jobs. There would also be a new bus service to Burgess Hill and Hassocks and new shops, medical and community facilities. The plans would also include a new primary school and segregated pedestrian and cycle routes.

Bryant Homes said in a newsletter to villagers: "The Sayers Common proposal would enable the pressure for more development to be taken off Burgess Hill, East Grinstead, Haywards Heath and some of the villages.

"This will not only help to meet the district's current housing requirement but will also help future housing needs as part of a properly planned phased development. By building the new houses primarily in one location, it will be possible to create a balanced community with the range of facilities essential to provide the necessary jobs and infrastructure."

The newsletter says Mid Sussex has "many sensitive locations where development would be totally inappropriate". It says new homes at Sayers Common would be built in a natural, well-screened bowl, and the land is not in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

But furious Coun Jo Kaddish, chairman of Hurstpierpoint Parish Council, which covers Sayers Common, said: "Sayers Common is a tiny village, but you would put the population up to more than 4,000 if you brought in 1,500 houses. This would make it a village not far off the size of Hurstpierpoint. It's Sayers Common assault. If it goes any further, we'll fight it tooth and nail."

Paul Hartley, clerk to the parish council, said: "They're flying a kite, pushing their ideas forward in the hope that someone will latch onto it and say this is the solution to the housing problem."

To have any chance of developing Sayers Common on anything like this scale, Bryant Homes need the area to be included in the new local plan being drawn up by Mid Sussex Council.

The newsletter says: "Mid Sussex District Council has requested the views of local residents and local groups on the potential sites identified for new housing. At present, Sayers Common is not included in the list of potential sites. If you think that Sayers Common should be included, please write by March 27, 2000, to Richard Walker, chief planning officer."

A council spokeswoman said: "We were approached by Bryant Homes to discuss their possible developments in Sayers Common, which we did. However, this in no way indicates that we are in favour of the development. As a council, we are always willing to discuss possible developments when approached."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.