Planning System is Broken says Lib Dem Candidate

12 Feb 2024

A potential development of 1,100 houses on green fields at Hamsey, near Lewes, is a prime example that shows the planning system isn’t working, the Liberal Democrat candidate for East Grinstead and Uckfield has said.

Benedict Dempsey, Lib Dem candidate for the parliamentary constituency that contains Hamsey, said developments of this kind will not help solve the country’s housing crisis. Instead, he said, we should empower councils to build homes that put ‘people before profit’.

He said the Hamsey site should be rejected by Lewes District Council in its Local Plan. In the longer term, he said, the planning system needs major reform to allow councils to build new social and affordable housing with the necessary infrastructure to support them.

The site (labelled ‘19HY Land North of Cooksbridge’) has been judged ‘potentially suitable’ for development in Lewes District Council’s Land Availability Assessment (LAA). The council is currently asking for public feedback on options for its Local Plan, with its consultation closing on 19th February.

Ben Dempsey said: “We are in a housing crisis, and we desperately need more low cost and social housing for people to live in.

“But proposals like this are not the answer. We can’t address our housing crisis by putting over a thousand houses into a tiny rural community.

“Hamsey has no services to support a development of that size and has very limited public transport. The area already suffers from congestion at peak times. It encompasses productive agricultural land and it is an area of environmental importance bordering the South Downs National Park.

“Instead of absurd proposals like this, local authorities should be supported to build a new generation of environmentally sustainable, affordable and social housing. But currently, their hands are tied by the national planning system.

“The only people that this kind of development benefits are the developers who stand to make a profit. Local authorities are being put in an impossible position by the national planning system that forces them to meet housing targets and is stacked in developers’ favour.

“In the short term, Lewes District Council should reject development of this site in its Local Plan.

“In the longer term, we need major reform to the national planning system, so that sites like this are not considered suitable in the future. Instead, councils should be enabled to deliver housing that puts people before profit.

“For example, local authorities should be given the power to build affordable and social housing themselves, and allowed to borrow to fund them if appropriate. We should introduce binding targets for social and affordable housing, set by local authorities, and the Land Compensation Act should be reformed so that councils can buy land based on current value rather than ‘hope value’ associated with a planning application.

“I call on other parliamentary candidates for East Grinstead and Uckfield to oppose the development at Hamsey, and support these reforms of a planning system that is currently not working for our communities.”

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