West Hoathly Parish

including Highbrook, Selsfield, Sharpthorne, Tyes Cross and West Hoathly

NeighbOURhood PLAN


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Frequently Asked Questions

This page attempts to provide answers to some of the questions and concerns that have frequently been raised about the Neighbourhood Plan.

The goal is to explain some of the key topics in plain English.


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  1. Why do we need a Neighbourhood Plan?

    Having a Neighbourhood Plan for our parish helps to make it more likely that our area will remain a lively, diverse and vibrant area into the future. The policies in the Plan were devised to protect the things this community VALUES and to mitigate their CONCERNS as much as possible.

    Without a Plan the future of our area would be determined by Mid Sussex's "one size fits all" District or Local Plan which cannot adapt to the special requirements of our parish. Our area is very different from large towns like East Grinstead and even has different concerns to our neighbouring villages, Ardingly and Turners Hill.

    Without a Plan every planning application in our area would only be assessed against the national and district policies (as now), taking no account of OUR local housing needs, parking and traffic issues, and all the other policies included in the Plan. There is currently a serious shortfall on the district's target for new homes so some sites that would have previously been refused as being outside a built-up area could have been permitted - just ask Lindfield and Ardingly for recent examples!

    Other communities are working on their own Neighbourhood Plans and there is a possibility that developers could in future begin to take advantage of areas without one in force.

  2. How will our policies be enforced?

    All our policies will be applied through the planning system. A new planning application will be assessed by Mid Sussex District Council against the Policies in our Neighbourhood Plan and permission would normally be refused if it does not conform with them. If an application goes to appeal our policies will also have equal weight with the national and district policies.

  3. How were the policies in the Plan arrived at?

    When the Neighbourhood Plan project first began more than three years ago, several public workshops were held to "brainstorm" what residents liked about living in West Hoathly parish and what they didn't. These sessions were followed up by a survey of all residents of the parish to verify the workshop conclusions.

    Using this information, a list of valued attributes was compiled, among them were:

    • the countryside and the historic built parts of the parish
    • the range of community activities and support
    • the pubs
    • having a primary school

    ... and also a list of concerns, some of which were:

    • the volume and speed of traffic, pedestrian and cyclist safety
    • the shortage of homes suitable for young families and down-sizing older residents
    • the continued viability of West Hoathly primary school and other child activities
    • facilities for teenagers and an ageing population
    • the range of shops and products on offer within the parish
    • the availability of local employment opportunities

    The valued attributes and concerns formed the basis of the sustainability objectives section in the Sustainability Appraisal Scoping report.

    You can find out more about how the valued attributes and issues of concern relate to the sustainability objectives on the Sustainablity Objectives page of the Neighbourhood Plan microSite.

    A series of public meetings were held which went through the district and national policies to check whether they were sufficient to meet our sustainability objectives. Where it was considered that those policies alone were not adequate, a policy was written into the Neighbourhood Plan specifically tailored to the needs of our local area.

    A draft Neighbourhood Plan was written and a formal 6-week consultation took place in spring 2013. As this indicated that some further work was necessary, in particular on the "Sites for New Homes" policy, a Task Force was formed to re-examine this policy and the housing needs. The draft Plan was revised based on their findings followed by another 6-week consultation period in 2014 (you can read the responses on the Draft Plan Consultation page of the Neighbourhood Plan microSite). Further changes were made as a result of the feedback received.

    Finally, the whole document was scrutinised by Chris Bowden, the independent planning consultant who assisted the Task Force to assess the proposed development sites, and also by Planning Aid. Several improvements were made based on their suggestions to create the submission version of the Neighbourhood Plan that was handed over to Mid Sussex District Council to begin their stage of the process.

  4. What happened after the Draft Plan was submitted to the District Council?

    Mid Sussex District Council organised their own 6-week consultation on the Plan which ran from 23 October - 4 December 2014.

    Mr Nigel McGurk, an independent examiner (a senior planning professional), was appointed by Mid Sussex District Council to examine the Plan and supporting documents as well as the consultation responses to check that the Plan fulfilled the legal conditions for a Neighbourhood Plan and that "due process" had been followed.

    Mr McGurk was satisfied that we had followed the correct process, that our policies are reasonable and that our evidence was sufficient. He allowed the Plan to proceed to a referendum provided the changes he required were made.

    The District Council arranged for a local referendum which took place on 26th March 2015. Everyone in the parish who was registered on the electoral roll was entitled to vote YES or NO to the whole Plan.

    For the Plan to finally come into force a majority (ie over 50%) of people who vote needed to vote "Yes". In the event 73.8% voted "Yes" so the WHOLE of the Plan will be adopted during April.

  5. How much has it cost local residents to produce the Neighbourhood Plan?

    West Hoathly Parish Council successfully applied with Mid Sussex District under the government-funded Frontrunner scheme for a grant of £20,000 (shared between the councils) to assist with creating the Plan.

    Much of the work has been done by volunteers (parish councillors and local residents), with the award being used to cover the costs of external consultants, printing and distribution and the extra hours worked by the Parish Clerk.

  6. Could we have done anything we wanted through the Neighbourhood Plan?

    Alas, no. There are certain things that are excluded like mineral extraction for example.

    All our policies had to be capable of being applied through the current planning system and (unless there are truly extraordinary reasons why not) be in "general conformity" with national and district policies.

    Everything in the Plan must be "evidence based" and not just a good idea somebody thought up. The many surveys, workshops, exhibitions and consultations conducted in the past 2 -3 years have contributed to our evidence base.

    Finally, landowners must be treated impartially, and it must be possible for the allowed development to be economically viable.

  7. Why do we need any new homes in the parish at all?

    All the surveys have indicated that there is a shortage of smaller homes in the parish and a desire for more - unfortunately many houses tend to be extended and grow bigger over time.

    There are a number of older people in the parish who would like to move from a larger house that has become difficult to manage into a smaller, more convenient home but still remain in the local area. The provision of more of this type of home would "free-up" larger homes for growing families to move into, which would have a knock-on effect throughout the local housing market.

    There are also parents who are concerned that their children will have to move away from the area to become independent because there is a shortage of low-cost starter homes. Young people are important for the vibrancy of the community - as well as helping to sustain the primary school!

    The Plan is trying to ensure that the majority of new homes in the next few years meet these requirements rather than continuing the trend of new homes having 4+ bedrooms (these are the most lucrative for the developers).

    You can find out more on the Housing Requirement page of the Neighbourhood Plan microSite.

  8. New houses will be built in the parish anyway - won't that be enough?

    Most of the houses that already have planning permission (and have not yet been built), or that are currently going through the planning process have 4 bedrooms or more so do not do anything to help with our shortage of smaller dwellings (see question 4).

    Infill housing of 1 or 2 new homes on a plot does not generate any new "affordable" homes (a development of 10 homes or more is needed to be sure that the 30% quota of "affordable" homes will be built within the parish). It would not be credible to the Examiner that we don't need any "affordable" housing as the Mid Sussex Housing Register says we do!

    You can find out more about "affordable" housing on the Housing Requirement page of the Neighbourhood Plan microSite.

    The sites allocated by the Plan should provide around 55 homes over its 17-year lifetime (2014 - 2031), which works out at fewer than 4 new homes a year. Many of these will be smaller, market homes of the type we need, and "affordable" housing. The infill houses that will happen anyway will cater for the people who want - and can afford - larger homes.

  9. What was the Task Force? How were the people on it chosen? Did they represent all parts of the parish?

    The Task Force was formed in December 2013 to review the parish's housing needs, evaluate all the potential sites for new homes and recommend new wording for policy WHP13 for the Parish Council to consider. The members of the Task Force were not appointed - all residents of the parish were invited to join and attend the first meeting, which was widely advertised in The Chronicle, on the Hoathly Hub and using posters. The Task Force consisted of a fairly evenly-balanced number of residents of West Hoathly and Sharpthorne with a few from the countryside areas of the parish. In addition there were a number of Sharpthorne residents at the final meeting who had not been at the previous meetings.

    The Task Force organised a Q & A session for landowners to present their plans if they wished, as well as a series of public exhibitions around the parish with information about all the potential sites. Residents were invited to contribute their local knowledge about one or more sites using feedback forms to assist the Task Force with making their assessments.

    The Task Force was assisted by Chris Bowden, an independent consultant from Navigus. Chris helped to develop the sustainability objectives from the needs and concerns of the community and then, at the request of the Task Force, did an initial assessment of each potential site against those objectives. The Task Force then refined these initial assessments, with the benefit of local knowledge, to determine the best site(s) that would meet the parish's housing requirements. Using the recommendations of the Task Force, the Parish Council agreed on the sites to be included in the Plan and how many new homes were appropriate for each at a meeting open to the public.

    All the notes of all the meetings of the Task Force (written by the Parish Clerk), masses of information on the proposed sites and other reference material can be read on the WHP13 Task Force page of the Neighbourhood Plan microSite.

  10. Why are all the allocated sites in Sharpthorne and not spread around the whole parish?

    Following the formal consultation on the first draft Plan in 2013 the Parish Council agreed that one policy WHP13-Site(s) for New Homes, which allocated all new homes on a single site, required further work. The Parish Clerk then started a new "Call for Sites" initiative, part of which involved contacting the landowners of the sites identified by the Sharpthorne Community Action Group which could supply new homes matching our housing requirements. The landowners were invited to fill in a formal Site Proposal Form which resulted in eleven potential sites coming forward at that stage and one later on.

    Four sites in West Hoathly were assessed but there were no sites in Highbrook or elsewhere in the parish put forward for consideration.

    All the sites put forward by the landowners were carefully and impartially assessed against the same set of Sustainability Objectives, as required by the Neighbourhood Planning process. It just happened that the most suitable sites are all in Sharpthorne.

    You can read the full assessment of each site in the Sustainability Appraisal.

    It was vital that all the sites were assessed impartially against the same objective criteria otherwise the landowners of any excluded sites could, with justification, complain that the assessments had not been done properly, probably causing the Plan to fail the examination stage.

  11. Why were the "brownfield" sites put forward not selected?

    "Brownfield" is not a simple "yes" or "no" option. Brownfield sites vary hugely from derelict, dangerous buildings in built-up areas (we don't have any of those) at one end of the scale, to sites that have been allowed to revert to nature (like Bluebell Woods, which had commercial works on it within living memory). Clearly they are very different propositions and should be assessed differently. Whether or not a site is "brownfield" was one of the sustainability objectives used by the Task Force and each site was evaluated according to how far along the scale it was.

    In addition, when a brownfield site is a currently-operating employment site (which both Hangdown Mead and West Hoathly garage are), it ought to be demonstrated that the existing businesses can be satisfactorily relocated before the site is redeveloped and that this can be secured through a policy in the Plan - just shutting down the businesses could mean the loss of valued services as well as long- and short-term employment. This may have meant allocating a new industrial site outside the built-up area, within the AONB. We would also have had to provide evidence that all the other proposed sites for new homes were less sustainable (which they weren't).

    When the suitability of each site was gauged against the sustainability objectives (including the "brownfield" measure), it became clear that the sites that are in the Plan are the most likely to promote a thriving future for the whole community.

    You can read the full assessment of each site in the Sustainability Appraisal.

  12. Will the new "affordable" homes be reserved for people with a local connection?

    Mid Sussex have agreed that the first letting of any new "affordable" housing within the parish which results from a market development allocated in a Neighbourhood Plan will be to people on the Housing Register who have a local connection*. For any subsequent lets 50% of the homes will be prioritised for letting to people with local connections* in perpetuity.

    You can find out more about "affordable" housing on the Housing Requirement page of the Neighbourhood Plan microSite.

    *Someone with a local connection either has family in the parish or works within the parish.

  13. Why are the details of the road improvements to be funded by the new homes not included in the Plan?

    The Plan cannot dictate specific traffic calming measures as they need to be discussed and agreed with WSCC Highways as and when detailed development plans are being drawn up. In particular, how traffic leaves or enters the new homes would be a key consideration when the developer applies for planning consent.

    Having a Neighbourhood Plan does not mean that additional traffic calming initiatives cannot be vigorously pursued by the Parish Council, as they are at present.

  14. Why are the details of the new homes to be built on the allocated sites not included in the Plan?

    The allocation of a site does not mean it will automatically get planning permission. The Plan indicates which land, outside the built-up area boundary, could be developed and the local conditions that must be satisfied for development to go ahead.

    The details are not yet known. Each site owner/developer will have to submit a detailed planning application to Mid Sussex District Council in the normal way and the usual planning process will be followed. The development must conform with all the national and local planning policies (such as road access, drainage etc.). The planning department must also judge the application against all the policies in our Plan - including the site-specific conditions - as well as against the national and district policies.

  15. Will I have another chance to register my opinion of the new homes?

    You will have the opportunity to express your opinion as a normal part of the planning process for every planning application for each site.


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