Muggeridge Field has been left unprotected in the Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Plan. This is bad news not only for Muggeridge Field but also for Chesworth Farm.
On 20th October 2022, residents and businesses in the area covered by the plan (Denne, Forest and Trafalgar) will be able to vote on the plan in a referendum. We don’t usually get the opportunity to vote on planning matters. So, use your vote wisely!
The neighbourhood plan has been many years in the making. It covers a wide array of planning matters in the area, including the protection of green spaces through a Local Green Space (LGS) designation. Green spaces that have a LGS designation can’t be developed. The neighbourhood plan has designated 23 green spaces.
Our assessment of Muggeridge Field shows that it meets the criteria for a LGS designation. However, it hasn’t be designated in the neighbourhood plan, even though those involved in the plan knew that it’s under threat of development from the landowner, West Sussex County Council (WSCC).
WSCC has formed a joint venture with a developer and has stated its intention to develop Muggeridge Field. If their planning application is successful, it will set a precedent that it’s acceptable to build houses on green spaces like Muggeridge Field, such as other fields on Chesworth Farm. The plan to develop Rookwood Park shows Horsham District Council’s (HDC) intent to develop sites that they own. If Muggeridge Field is developed, how long will it be before HDC develop other fields on Chesworth Farm? Consider this:
- HDC’s policy is to focus most housing development in and around the largest settlement – Horsham town.1 How much more development can the areas to the north and west of Horsham town take? The area to the east is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. So where will the development go next?
- Whilst commenting on plans to develop Rookwood Park, a spokesperson from HDC said, “all local authorities are obliged to achieve best value for their land”2, which is the same reason given by WSCC for the development of Muggeridge Field.3 So, that means HDC are also obliged to achieve best value for Chesworth Farm.
- Muggeridge Field and Chesworth Farm are listed as potential development sites in the latest Horsham District Local Plan.4 They haven’t be allocated for development this time but new sites are allocated for development every 5 years.
- Although Chesworth Farm was awarded Local Wildlife Site status in 2021, this doesn’t provide protection against development.5 Similarly, being part of the Green Infrastructure in the Horsham District won’t protect Chesworth Farm or Muggeridge Field from development.6
Further details about the treatment of Muggeridge Field in the neighbourhood plan can be found on our website. To summarise:
- The assessment of Muggeridge Field in the neighbourhood plan ignored calls from local residents to protect the field and disregarded the reasons they gave for protection, which supported a LGS designation.7,8 Instead the assessment was based on a statement made by WSCC which claimed that the field is a fenced of area with no public access.7,8 This is clearly biased towards WSCC and the claim made by them is incorrect9 and irrelevant.10
- Muggeridge Field was discounted without being assessed against the criteria for a LGS designation. The reason given for discounting the field went against the official guidance on LGS designations. 8,11
- Representations were raised against the plan, pointing out the inaccuracies and omissions in the assessment of Muggeridge Field and the failure to follow the official guidance.12 Despite this, the examiner said he agreed with the assessment of Muggeridge Field in the neighbourhood plan.13
- The examiner also said that in his assessment, Muggeridge Field does not meet in full the criteria for a LGS designation, but he didn’t publish his assessment of Muggeridge Field against the criteria for LGS designation and neither did he give any reasons why it didn’t meet these criteria.13
Our assessment shows that when the full benefits of Muggeridge Field are taken into account, it does meet the criteria for a LGS designation. Why is it that those people who say Muggeridge Field doesn’t meet the criteria for a LGS designation aren’t able to explain why? Why haven’t they published a full and fair assessment of Muggeridge Field against the criteria for a LGS designation? We may never know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that the failure to protect Muggeridge Field with a LGS designation, paves the way for the development of Muggeridge Field and Chesworth Farm.
A copy of the Horsham Blueprint neighbourhood plan is available on the HDC website, along with further details about Horsham Blueprint and the plan.
The content of this news article is based on extensive research conducted by the Keep Muggeridge Field Green Campaign Group.
- Horsham District Local Plan 2021-38 Regulation 19 Draft Copy issued July 2021 for HDC Cabinet approval; Development Hierarchy (Paragraphs 4.9 to 4.11)
- News article in West Sussex County Times titled, “Fresh Rookwood development plans labelled ‘window dressing’”; 23rd December 2020.
- Briefing notes for the motions to be referred at the meeting of the County Council to be held on Friday, 16 July 2021; published by WSCC on 15th July 2021.
- Horsham District Council Regulation 18 Site Assessment Report issued February 2020; Site Ref SA060 and SA298.
- Horsham District Local Plan 2021-38 Regulation 19 Draft Copy issued July 2021 for HDC Cabinet approval; Policy 30 – Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity (Paragraph 2). Note that Rookwood Park was previous identified as part of the Horsham District Green Infrastructure in the Green Infrastructure Strategy document published by HDC in April 2014.
- Horsham Blueprint Business Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Statement – APPENDIX E – List of comments received at Regulation 14 and Forum responses, March 2021 – view extract
- Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Plan Local Green Spaces Review, November 2019 (amended March 2021) – view
- Whilst it’s true there is no public access to the fenced off area in Muggeridge Field, the public bridleway is very much part of the field, as confirmed in the Horsham District Council Regulation 18 Site Assessment Report issued February 2020 (Site Ref SA060).
- The Planning Practice Guidance on Local Green Space designation, Paragraph: 017 (Reference ID: 37-017-20140306), states, “land could be considered for designation even if there is no public access”.
- The reason given for discounting Muggeridge Field was because it was considered to be “a strip of land where the only public interest is that a public right of way passes across it”. According to the Planning Practice Guidance on Local Green Space designation, Paragraph: 018 (Reference ID: 37-018-20140306), this should only be used to discount a green space if the intention of the designation is to protect rights of way, which are already protected under other legislation.
- Representations (redacted) to the Regulation 16 Consultation, Ref 10 (dated 29/10/2020) and Ref 12 (dated 01/11/2020) – on the HDC website
- Report on Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Plan 2019-2036, by the examiner, Derek Stebbing, 18 February 2021 – on the HDC website