March 2014 - Once again MSDC Fail to Deliver Essential Infrastructure
Even though developers, Fairview, were offering only 53% of the Infrastructure required under the Council's own Infastructure Policy, G3, officials recommended that Councillors must permit an application for 74 homes south of the Grade I Listed Old Convent.
In fact they told the elected members on the committee several times that they would be acting 'unreasonably' if they turned the application down because it failed to meet the policy requirements.
The shortfall in infrastructure provision is estimated to be over £1.1million. Did the officers set out this shortfall - not a bit of it, instead they stressed how generous the developers were being, in increasing their 'full & final offer' of December by £122K! The PRC was left to use the MSDC calculator and expose the full extent of the shortfall:
In their letter Fairview explained that if the increased offer was not sufficient to persuade councillors to reverse their earlier refusal, they reserved the right to stick to the earlier lower figure at an appeal. This was something Cllr Matthews was at pains to highlight as he exhorted colleagues once again to approve the application; "Not only might we not gain the extra £112,000, the Council might have to pay costs if it loses an appeal - which I think is almost certain".
Had fellow members of the Committee taken the unbridled support and advice of Cllrs Matthews and MacNaughton to accept the officers' recommendations in December they would have already forfeited the £122,000 of course!
In contrast, in a submission regarding an appeal for 34 homes at Ardingly and another application for 50 homes in Crawley Down. the same officials argue that the application can only be supported if the full Infrastructure required under Policy G3 is delivered.
Astonishingly this is despite the clear instruction from the Inspector in his 'binding report', when he 'allocated' the site south of The Old Convent that it should only go ahead if the full infrastructure requirements are met. Not 53% but 100%! He also stressed that the development must deliver the full level of affordable housing under the Council's Policy H4 - but officials insisted that committee members would be 'unreasonable' if they insisted on more than the 80% of the requirement that the developers offered.
At the same planning meeting the Council's Solicitor told the committee members that they must be consistent in their decision-making.
You might be asking yourself, why does the Council require full compliance with their infrastructure requirements (and affordable housing) in Ardingly and Crawley Down, but then Council officials say that they are happy with just 53% in East Grinstead and that members would be acting 'unreasonably' if they refuse the applcaition on the grounds that it does not meet the local development planning policies? How is that consistent? We think that's a very good question - and the complete lack of explanation by officers speaks volumes.
It's also worth noting that the Committee had thrown out a near identical application in December because at that time the developers said they could only offer 45% of the essential infrastructure, against the advice of officers and to the chagrin of the Committee Chairman and Cllr Edward Matthews. The officers had recommended that the Committeee should permit the development in December, which would have given an even larger (£122,000 more) taxpayer subsidy to the developers - this surely tells us all we need to know about the reliability of the MSDC offciails' advice on this.
MSDC are Not Offering the Essential Infrastructure in the District Plan (currently withdrawn)
In 2004 the West Sussex Structure Plan said that development above and beyond that stipulated in the Mid Sussex Local Plan must be contingent on providing essential infrastructure. This essential infrastructure (to support 2,500 houses) was set out in the 'Development Principles' under Policy LOC1.
In 2006 MSDC produced an East Grinstead Area Action Plan (EGAAP) to deliver the 2,500 homes. MSDC calculated that £109m would be needed to deliver this essential infrastructure.
Between 2006 and 2011 MSDC allowed 640 homes to be completed. In addition they had made 'commitments' to a further 460 homes with a further 200 allocated through the Local Plan and Small Scale Housing Allocations DPD. A total of 1300 homes.
At the Neighbourhood Plan Workshop Cllrs O'Brien and Webster made it clear that MSDC would expect the EG Neighbourhood Plan to include 600+ homes in addition.
On this basis, it looks likely that the MSDC Local Development Framework will seek to push more than 2,500 homes onto East Grinstead, between 2006 and 2031.
Not the just the 190 homes that Cllrs Marsh and Wyan have been peddling in the press.
Currently MSDC's 'Infrastructure' plan only offers a maximum of £4.1m towards infrastructure throughout the plan period.
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