The PRC Case
The PRC was founded by the main residents' groups of East Grinstead and the surrounding villages in 2003, following the Referendum which saw 96% of voters reject excessive mass-housebuilding being promoted by the Leadership of Mid Sussex District Council and their partners in the East Grinstead Developer Consortium. The PRC is an umbrella group.
MSDC False Claims
In 2002 Mid Sussex District Council told the Planning Inspectors that the town's people wanted mass-development - this was not true - as thousands showed when they signed the Petition, and then responded to the MSDC East Grinstead Area Action Plan and Core Strategy.
The scheme comprised 2,500 homes as a strategic development on the green fields of Imberhorne and Hill Place Farms plus another 2,000-3,000 homes that MSDC hoped to build across the town on smaller sites. To get the scheme sanctioned by the Inspector the promoters had proposed substantial infrastructure improvements and traffic relief. The Inspector made development 'contingent' on meeting specific 'development principles'.
Major Constraints on Development at East Grinstead
The 2004 Local Plan identifies two [major constraints] on development at East Grinstead. Nonetheless MSDC and their developer partners set out to enable their scheme for mass-development at the county Structure Plan public examination in 2002.
The Inspector required that the proposed strategic development was made contingent on meeting 'development principles'. These set out the essential infrastructure and the criteria for the 'comprehensive package of transport measures' to deliver the required traffic relief.
MSDC tried to Ignore the Development Principles
No sooner had the Strategic Development been included in the local development plan than MSDC's planners started to try and water them down. Despite objections from the PRC, the District Council only dropped their argument that they could decide which to implememnt, after the PRC had obtained a legal opinion from Mr Richard Phiilps QC of Francis Taylor Building chambers.
Mr Phillips QC spelled out for the Council that 'contingent' means that the development could only proceed if the Council fully met the 'development principles', stressing that the Council could not 'pick and choose' which of the conditions it might meet.
MSDC Leadership Forced to Abandon EGAAP & Core Strategy
The level of public objection to the MSDC scheme for their mass-development at East Grinstead, combined with the technical and legal case presented by the PRC, forced the Leadership to abandon first the EGAAP in 2009 and then the Core Strategy in 2010.
The PRC engaged transport, planning and legal advisors to show that the Council's mass-development scheme was unsustainable, unlawful and undeliverable,
District Plan & East Grinstead Neighbourhood Plan
Unfortunately, the District Council Leadership at Haywards Heath have not abandonned their long-term ambitions for mass-development at East Grinstead.
This was revealed by the 2013 draft District Plan which made no mention of the established constraints on development at East Grinstead and would have removed the protections against unsustainable development provided in [Chapter 12 of the MSDC Local Plan] (2004). Fortunately the plan was so sub-standard the Inspector obliged the Council to withdraw it in January 2014.
East Grinstead Neighbourhood Plan
During 2012/2013 the Town Council worked on a draft East Grinstead Neighbourhood Plan (NP) through a Working Group, chaired by Cllr Norman Webster with Cllr John O'Brien as vice chair.
At a stakeholder meeting these two Councillors stressed that MSDC would not accept an NP that allocated less than 1,500 homes in the town. Residents explained that this would not be possible as the road network could not absorb this scale of development, and in any event it would be illegal under the Habitats Regulations.
Cllrs Webster & O'Brien narrowly persuaded the Town Council to publish their proposal (in Summer 2013) that obeyed the remit from Haywards Heath. However residents overwhelmingly rejected the plan as too weak and as dangerously risking offering MSDC a 'developers' charter'.
No change at Haywards Heath
The ambitions of the Leadership at distant Haywards Heath may be less obvious, but remain unsustainable and still pose a substantial threat to the town and surrounding villages. Recent shennanigans indicate that the Leadership still think they can cut corners and that the rules do not apply to MSDC.
Flawed 2013 District Plan Fails at Examination & is [Withdrawn]
Despite all objections, the District Council Leadership submitted their draft District Plan to the Secretary of State for public examination in June 2013. After just one day of the Examination the Inspector concluded the plan was so fundamentally flawed it must be withdrawn. None of the evdience or the susbstance was even discussed.
What Next? - Cllr Webster appointed Cabinet Member for Planning
Following the debacle at the public examination Cllr Webster swapped jobs with Cllr Marsh, taking over as the Cabinet Member responsible for planning.
District Plan - The District Council withdrew the plan. It intends to consult on a new plan in Autumn 2014. We await to see whether it will afford protection for the town and surrounding villages.
Neighbourhood Plan - Cllr Rex Whittaker took over as Leader of EGTC in December 2014. He has said that the Town Council will now listen to the 1000+ objections made by residents to the unsatisfactory first draft.
He has also promised that a revised NP will be produced that adds teeth to the NP that will force MSDC to protect the town from unscrupulous developers and unsustainable development.
The new NP will be consulted on and would only come into force after a Referendum.
Unlike Cllrs Webster and O'Brien, Cllr Whittaker is only on the Town Council and so does not face any of the [conflict of interests] they experienced.
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