Muggeridge Field is located on the north-east side of Chesworth Farm in the market town of Horsham. There is a popular public bridleway running along the western edge of the field, which can be accessed from Arun Way and Chesworth Farm.
A beautiful and popular place
Muggeridge Field is an area of natural grassland, which is a rare and important habitat that can support a huge variety of wildlife. It is frequented by deer, foxes, pheasants and badgers. Barn owls regularly fly over the field at dusk and dive to the ground to catch their prey. Nightingales have been heard and there are numerous other species of birds. Insects, including butterflies and moths, abound.
Muggeridge Field forms the eastern side of a hill and provides a wonderful semi-rural setting for the residential areas around it. It also screens the built-up area of Horsham from the countryside to the south-east.
The field is very popular with the local community. On a sunny weekend day, it is not unusual for over 400 people to use it. It is particularly popular with people exercising their dogs or enjoying a walk in this picturesque setting. Runners, cyclists and horse riders also use the bridleway.
From the moment you enter the field from Arun Way you are rewarded with peacefulness, interrupted only by the twittering of the birds, and an openness that invokes a sense of freedom. As you progress up the hill, the view over the field gives way to panoramic views across the countryside to the south-east.
View videos of Muggeridge Field.
The threat of development
Muggeridge Field is a unique and wonderful place that has immense value to the local community. It is unbelievable that anyone would want to build here but West Sussex County Council is determined to do just that.
West Sussex County Council are the landowners of Muggeridge Field, except for a smaller triangular area in the north-west corner of the field, which is owned by a trust. In planning documents, the area owned by WSCC is referred to under the Site Name, “Land south of Athelstan Way” (Site Ref SA060).
The first attempt to develop the field occurred in the Horsham District Draft Local Plan of 1994, which proposed a development of 37 dwellings on part of Muggeridge Field. Following a public enquiry the planning inspector concluded that the development would have a seriously harmful impact on the character and appearance of the open rural area to the south of the town and the proposal was unacceptable.
In 2011, WSCC applied for outline planning permission to develop 2.8 hectares (65%) of the site with 70 dwellings (DC/11/0224). Over 170 people attended a public meeting at which there was unanimous opposition to the planning application and a total of 257 local residents registered their objection to it. This went to a planning appeal in 2012 but was dismissed. The planning inspector said, “I attach weight to the contribution that the development of the site would make to the supply of housing in the area. However, this would be achieved at the considerable expense of the loss of an attractive area of open countryside where the impact of the proposal would be significant. The replacement of part of the existing open area which forms a valuable green backdrop to the existing edge of town by a sub-urban housing area would have an unacceptably negative effect on the character of the area.”
Following this defeat, WSCC started making preparations for their next attempt. In 2013, they fenced off their part of the field and rented it out for grazing to stop people walking across it. They also planted trees and bushes along the southern boundary of the field, which could eventually block the panoramic views from the bridleway.
In 2020, Henry Adams made a representation against the Horsham District Draft Local Plan on behalf of WSCC, asking for their part of the field to be allocated for development so that they could build 63 dwellings on it. In this representation, they said there are no permissive paths or public rights of way that cross the site, although they did acknowledge the presence of the public bridleway.
Also in 2020, WSCC made two representations against the Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Plan. The first, in March 2020, claimed that the description of Muggeridge Field was incorrect; this resulted in the description of the field being changed to say that neither permissive paths nor formal public rights of way are located within the site, with no mention of the public bridleway. In October 2020, Henry Adams made a representation on behalf of WSCC, calling for sites to be allocated for development within the neighbourhood plan and for their part of Muggeridge Field to be allocated.
The Keep Muggeridge Field Green group
The Keep Muggeridge Field Green group was formed in 2021, with the aim of campaigning for the preservation of Muggeridge Field for the benefit of nature and the local community.