Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert joined Henfield residents on Sunday morning (3 November) to celebrate a successful campaign victory over developers who sought to build on a field in the village.
The proposal from Fairfax Properties, to build 42 houses on a site overlooking the South Downs, was initially rejected by Horsham District Council. The decision was swiftly appealed by the developer and a 4-day public inquiry took place in August, with the Inspector concluding that the development should not be granted permission.
The community, led by the Campaign to Protect Rural Henfield (CPRH), rallied to oppose the plans and added their voices at the inquiry. They pointed out that the Henfield neighbourhood plan should be completed before any new sites can be determined.
Mr Herbert submitted a strong statement to the inquiry pointing out that “the whole point of neighbourhood planning is to allow the community, rather than developers, to determine where development should take place”, adding “it is wrong when developers game the system.”
Horsham District Council stated in their evidence to the inquiry that neighbourhood plans are fundamental to the District’s own Local Plan, “not a bolt-on extra”.
The Inspector’s decision noted that even though Horsham has a “modest shortfall” in its projected 5-year housing delivery figures, their Plan significantly relieves the pressure on villages which are still working hard to put neighbourhood plans in place. He also noted the harm to heritage assets located next to the field.
Phil Johnson, Chairman CPRH, said: “We were waiting with bated breath for the decision, so much hangs on it. People were concerned that it would open the door to a flood of development in our countryside.
“We recognise that more houses are needed, but we want them built in the right place. This wasn’t it.”
The decision was met with relief and joy. The Henfield neighbourhood plan, which has been in development for 3 years, can now proceed to a final consultation which is expected to start before Christmas.
Steve Bailey, a resident who lives adjacent to the threatened field, said: “It is so uplifting to look out at the South Downs and know that those amazing countryside views will still be there tomorrow.”
Mr Herbert said: “I was so pleased that local people won this and was delighted to support their campaign. Too often neighbourhood plans have been undermined by developers, not least in Henfield, so it was great that the community came together to fight their corner successfully in this case.”