Mid Sussex Council has reaffirmed its decision to pass a development plan document which could see 1,700 homes built, despite a threat of judicial review by one of its own councilors, who argues the decision was tainted with a procedural defect.
In June, the board formally adopted the Site Allotment Development Plan (DPD) document. However, shortly after making the decision, the local authority received a pre-complaint letter from Cllr Robert Eggleston.
Cllr Eggleston’s letter suggested the council had failed to properly submit an environmental report – and responses to it – for consideration before voting on the plan. Cllr Eggleston is supported by a group called South of Folders Lane Action Group (SOFLAG).
The board reconsidered its decision at the extraordinary board meeting last week (August 10) and decided to reaffirm its decision to adopt the DPD.
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At the meeting, Cllr Eggleston tabled an amendment asking the council to write to the Secretary of State to revoke the plan, but members rejected the proposal.
Failure to adopt the DPD will put the council at significant risk of not having a five year supply of housing land.
The local authority said an independent planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State concluded that the DPD for the sites was “legally compliant, sound and likely to be adopted”.
According to the local authority, the council’s legal adviser believes it was “clear that members had access to all relevant documents via an electronic link on June 29, however, to avoid unnecessary expense to ratepayers and expedite proceedings if the matter was to be taken further by the plaintiff, the council met again on August 10 to reaffirm its decision to adopt the plan”.
Cllr Robert Salisbury, Cabinet Member for Planning, said it is ‘regrettable that Councilor Eggleston, acting with the South of Folders Lane action group, is threatening the Council with legal action over such a minor matter “.
He added: “We were very disappointed that it was necessary to recall Council to the House to consider a matter which he discussed only a few weeks ago. It is further frustrating that Councilor Eggleston did not not raise this minor technical issue when he spoke during the debate on June 29. Had he done so, this extra work and expense could have been avoided.
In an announcement reacting to the comments, a SOFLAG spokesperson said: ‘The Site Allocations DPO will fundamentally change the landscape of the entire District forever, so we don’t believe bringing it to Councilors for a key vote without all the required paperwork to be properly available (and for the second time, as happened in 2020, also remember) is a ‘minor technical issue'”.
Councilor Jonathan Ash-Edwards, head of the Council, said revoking the whole plan “would be a completely disproportionate response”.
He said: ‘It would leave Mid Sussex without a plan and remove the protections we have in place against speculative development as the council would have to start over all the work we have done over the last three years at great cost to the taxpayer .
“It’s rare that everyone agrees on every site of a plan. But the only way to keep Mid Sussex special and avoid a developer led free-for-all is to have a plan in place and make it happen. maintain.”