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East Grinstead Action Plan Briefs

PRC Brief Number 8 for Mid Sussex District Councillors
Monday,  26 February 2007

Council Leadership Abandons County Structure Plan!

The East Grinstead AAP cannot be made to conform to the West Sussex Structure Plan. That, the PRC has learned, is the advice given by the District Council's Head of Planning Policy. According to a document extracted by the PRC under the Freedom of Information Act, she has told the Council Leadership of October 2006 that it is now "impossible for the AAP to be in full compliance with the Structure Plan." Is this important news to you? Councillors were not told.

Why can't the scheme conform? The Structure Plan insists that the development is "contingent on ... essential requirements". Traffic congestion must be reduced in absolute terms. The planners appear to have reached the same conclusion as the PRC - that this can't be done with 4,500 new homes, because they bring 7,000 new cars with them. The planners' Strategic Transport Assessment Report makes this clear.

Gone - the Council Leadership's only justification for its scheme. Up till now the District Council administration has claimed the Structure Plan as the ONLY justification of their scheme to turn East Grinstead into a commuter satellite of Crawley. At every consultative event, they have refused to justify it on its merits, or to test it against other locations, claiming they had no option but to comply with the Structure Plan. In last April's consultation document they claimed: "The principle of a major new development on the W & SW of East Grinstead has been adopted in the West Sussex Structure Plan. Accordingly the MSDC must allocate land for this purpose." As always, no other justification was given. Now however the administration has abandoned these claims; in recognising that it is impossible for the scheme to comply with the Structure Plan, they are abandoning the only justification for the scheme they have ever attempted.

What is needed now - a new justification - or a new scheme? We understand that the administration will now argue that the Structure Plan is "unrealistic" in demanding traffic relief in absolute terms. Will they then say a more accommodating justification must be found to defend the same old scheme? Of course that would put the cart before the horse. In saying the development is contingent on essential requirements, the Structure Plan is saying that it cannot proceed unless it meets them. A scheme that contradicts those requirements is not open to the Council Leadership. If the scheme cannot meet them it must find a different scheme.

But how? Does the Structure Plan itself provide for such a situation? Fortunately yes. It says (paragraph 85) that if the required infrastructure cannot be provided there must be a review of the strategy. Fortunately the administration now admits that, in case it cannot deliver its East Grinstead scheme, it is preparing a contingency plan. And fortunately, as the PRC's Topic Brief number 7 showed, there are more sustainable locations for housebuilding in the northern part of Mid Sussex District. So things are coming together.

The German playwright Berthold Brecht wrote with famous irony of a government unwilling to carry out the will of the people; he said it showed it was "time to elect a new people". Cart before the horse? Now the Council Leadership know their scheme cannot comply with the Structure Plan. Will they say its essential requirements must made more "realistic"? Again, cart before the horse! Or is it time for a different and fully policy-conforming scheme?

For more information click on www.eghouses.org/ PRC Sustainable Alternative