Thursday, 24 September 2009

Concreting over the countryside

A “strategic site option”. This is code for a New Town, and that is what is threatened between Billingshurst and Pulborough around what is now the small hamlet of Adversane.

The proposal is for between 4000 and 5000 houses on about 155 ha of quiet rural West Sussex. That will be a population of around 10 to 12,000 people – bigger than both Billingshurst and Pulborough added together, and about the same size as the much criticised Ford “Eco” Town south of Arundel.

A new town of this size would essentially join up Billingshurst and Pulborough, making an expanded settlement of over 8,000 houses. Add in the 1750 houses also proposed for Billingshurst and 280 for Pulborough and we are heading for a major urban settlement of around 10,000 houses (total), more than 25,000 people. I thought that amalgamation of settlements into a large sub-urban mass was something that we were trying to avoid these days!

Swept away will be ancient woodlands, species rich hedgerows and the foraging areas of one of Europe’s rarest bats. Tranquillity would disappear to be replaced by many thousand extra car movements along the A29 and surrounding roads. This major development would completely devastate the area, changing it from a rural location into an expanse of suburbia.

And how do we know about it - through one of the passages in the Core Strategy of the Horsham District Councils Local Development Framework. Hardly bed-time reading for normal human-beings, but it shows how astute you have to be to stand a chance of arguing against major urban expansion.

I have seen reports tucked away in some of the local papers and the magnitude of the threat is slowly dawning on people. The Local Parish Councils, to their credit, are doing what they can to raise awareness. But I am slightly amazed that our local media, normally so good at these matters, are not jumping up and down.

So who would live in this new town and where would they work? There is no demand for a large work force in the area and no proposal for major industrial development to support the huge population increase. The consultation document itself says that this development would not support a range of services - an admission that it will be a dormitory town for people working elsewhere, probably in London. As such this form of town could be placed anywhere around London, there is no overriding need for it to be in Adversane. There is nothing wrong with people working in London whilst living in and appreciating Sussex. But we are now being threatened by a waste tip for London’s waste down the road at Laybrook, and a sub-urban sprawl designed only to be a dormitory town for London. Isn’t this all getting a bit unbalanced?

This is so often the case. We get big, menacing plans for housing development, being told that we are forced into this because of the South East Plan. But there are other policies in the SE Plan, including policies for nature conservation, and all policies are supposed to be balanced against each other. We have the site allocations for housing, so where are the site allocations for nature development?

Perhaps some policies are more equal than others.

Have your say!

Get the documents and response forms at
and go along to the exhibitions at Billingshurst Village Hall on 10am on 26th September and at Adversane Village Hall on 3rd October.

Let’s not sleep-walk into a miniature Milton-Keynes.

No comments: