Conservative planning changes mean subsidy for housing developers and less low cost housing

The proposed changes outlined in the “planning for the future” White Paper issued earlier this month raise more questions than answers and gives no compelling reason that current processes need for fundamental reforms.  Whilst it is clear the changes will mean bigger profits for developers, less community involvement in local planning processes, and reduced funding for local infrastructure (e.g. the related roads, schools and open space) – which will be more likely delivered after new housing is developed, not before it.  There is no evidence provided that the changes will lead to the development of more new houses, and the key issue of developers currently sitting on land banks that are estimated to comprise planning permissions for 500,000 houses is unaddressed.

Often even minor changes to planning proposals implemented during a detailed planning consultation can make a huge difference to local residents and the people destined to live in these developments.  The exact layout of the road network, the spacing of the houses and the incorporation of open spaces has a huge difference on how a development is perceived, and can be beneficial to the developer, as well as those who live in or next to it.  Why are local people to be shut out of this process?  The pre-approved “design codes” that new developments will need to comply with will never be able to respond to the complexity of local planning needs, local people are being asked to agree a blank cheque to the new growth zones without any say over the exact nature of the development.

The immediate exemption proposed for sites of under fifty housing units to be exempt from making any contribution to local infrastructure is a massive subsidy for housing developers who already make billions in annual profits (and incidentally bankroll the Conservative Party with £11 million donated since Boris Johnson became PM).  Current s106 funding is incorporated within new housing development and means affordable housing is delivered as part of any new scheme.  The proposed changes will end this, and be based on a national formula, less flexible than the current system, which will only provide funding after a development has been built.   Last week’s failures in water supply is an example where without adequate planning for future growth such water shortages are likely to get worse.   With the removal of the Mid Sussex requirement to build 30%  of affordable housing as part of new developments, those who want to rent or get on the housing ladder through shared ownership are likely to be disappointed (its replacement by a generalised financial contribution is open to diversion for a range of other purposes).

Perhaps our local MP could explain her support for the proposal, did she receive any contribution from housing developers for election expenses, why is the Conservative Party removing the right of local people to comment not just on the principle but on the detail of new developments, and can you explain why housing developers will no longer be required to provide affordable housing as part of a new scheme or pay for the infrastructure required for new developments?

Finally! Leisure Centres reopen but Liberal Democrats Voice Concerns About Clair Hall’s Future

Triangle Leisure Centre reopening 1st September

District councillors voted last night to reopen Mid Sussex’s three leisure centres with a phased reopening from 1st September. Customers will be asked to book all activities in advance via the Places Locker app or the Places Leisure website. There will be a 15-30 minute changeover period between each session to allow customers time to exit their activity safely and Places Leisure staff to clean the facilities. Signage will be in place to help people follow social distancing, there will be hand sanitising and cleaning stations, the number of people taking part in each activity will be reduced and cleaning regimes will be greatly enhanced. Initially not all facilities will be available such as the popular leisure swimming, so you are advised to check the Places Leisure website for updates when it was updated https://www.placesleisure.org/centres/the-triangle/

Liberal Democrats joined other councillors in voting to reopen the District’s three leisure centres. The decision was taken last night at a special meeting of Mid Sussex District Council following weeks of delay.  

The deal comes with a high price tag. The Council will forgo its monthly management fee of £120,000 and instead pay an estimated £2.5 million subsidy between now and April 2021 to its leisure contractor Places Leisure, funded from the Council’s reserves. A further condition of the proposal is that the Haywards Heath community venue Clair Hall come out of the Places Leisure contract and the future of the ‘site’ be considered at ‘some future point’.

At the meeting the Liberal Democrats voted to reopen the leisure centres from 1st September, but sought to strengthen and improve it by tabling three amendments.

The first amendment sought reassurance that the future of Clair Hall would be properly assessed and that the people of Haywards Heath would not be left deprived of a valuable community asset. The other two amendments would have reassured the public that should the arrangement prove to be unviable, alternatives be scoped and robust cross-party oversight put in place. In what turned into a very ill-tempered meeting, the Conservatives vehemently opposed all three amendments wrongly describing them as ‘wrecking motions.’

Cllr Alison Bennett, Liberal Democrat Group Leader said: “It’s great news that our leisure centres will open after a frustrating summer of delays. Opening is only possible by spending millions of pounds of Council reserves. This comes with significant risk and drain on tax payers’ money. The solution agreed last night is not financially sustainable in the medium term, and will need to be revisited in the coming months. Regrettably, the Conservatives misinterpreted our amendments which would have given the public further assurance that the ongoing provision of leisure in the District is being rigorously planned and overseen.”

Cllr Richard Bates, Liberal Democrat (Haywards Heath Ashenground) who proposed the amendment on Clair Hall commented, “As a keen swimmer and member of the Dolphin Leisure Centre, I was happy to support the proposal last night and understand the need to remove Clair Hall from the contract to get leisure centres open. However, without additional reassurances I am very worried that this will be the thin end of the wedge, and we risk losing Clair Hall as a community asset. Incredibly, Conservative councillors from Haywards Heath voted against an amendment that would have made sure that the town does not lose its largest community venue.”

Cllr Robert Eggleston, Liberal Democrat Deputy Group Leader commented, “Once again we see that the Mid Sussex Conservatives seem willing to sacrifice culture and the arts. In 2018 the Martlets Hall was closed and Clair Hall was cited as an alternative venue. Indeed £35,000 of the Martlets relocation fund was used to pay for refurbishments at Clair Hall. Now it looks as though Clair Hall is also going to be chucked under a bus by the Tories.”

Our manifesto for Burgess Hill

We want to stand up for local people on planning issues

We want to ensure that the planning of homes meets the needs of the community, not the interests of developers. We want to increase the proportion of affordable and social housing, and push for developers to pay more to improve our overburdened infrastructure. We want to protect the green countryside between Burgess Hill,  Haywards Heath and Hassocks.

We will work to improve our environment

We will adopt policies to reduce fly tipping and reduce and recycle food waste so that less goes into landfill.  We want to promote community transport schemes to reduce traffic congestion and improve cycling infrastructure. We will make the environment central to planning decisions and new developments. We want to see zero carbon housing, and for developers to include simple measures to improve biodiversity, such as hedgehog holes, swift boxes and wildlife planting areas.  We will promote the Green Circle Network and protect Bedelands Nature Reserve.

Rebuild the local community and economy

We will continue the work to replace the Martlets Hall and resist measures to downgrade the town’s library and other public facilities.  We want to breathe new life into the Burgess Hill Town Centre Partnership and consult on measures to improve trading in the town, such as a Town £ or Town Discount Card.

Improve decision making

We will break the single-party domination of Mid Sussex and on Burgess Hill Town Council. Whatever your political views, this is bad for local democracy. We will scrutinise the Council in the interests of local people and make our decisions based on what is best for our community.   

How We’ll Work We will keep listening to you so we can represent your views.  We will be accessible so that you can talk to us about the issues that concern you and we can represent you better. We’ll deliver regular newsletters and use social media to keep you updated on how we are working for you. We will consult with you more on issues that affect the town and be more open and accountable.

 We will hold surgeries to help deal with your concerns and promote community involvement in the work of the town council by encouraging the active participation of local residents. 

We will work with others when it is in the interests of the local community. We will not simply oppose for the sake of opposing, but make case-by-case judgements to deliver the best outcomes for our town.    ent 4