Sussex parish councillors resign over Javid homes approval

Half of the members of a Sussex parish council have resigned in protest after the government allowed an appeal for 50 new homes in their village.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid
Communities secretary Sajid Javid

Six members of Newick Parish Council in Lewes district, East Sussex, stood down over the decision last month by communities secretary Sajid Javid to give the go-ahead to the new homes because they said it conflicted with the village's adopted neighbourhood plan.

They claimed that it makes a "mockery" of the 2011 Localism Act, which introduced neighbourhood planning.

Javid granted permission for up to 50 new homes, of which 20 would be affordable, at Mitchelswood Farm, Newick, having recovered an appeal by developer DLA Delivery.

The application was refused by Lewes District Council in February 2015 and opposed by the parish council because the development site is not allocated for housing in the Newick Neighbourhood Plan, which was adopted in July 2015.

Parish council clerk Sue Berry confirmed that five of the 11 councillors had resigned on November 29. They are: Chris Armitage, Nick Berryman, Chris Jago, Melanie Thew, and Cathy Wickens. A sixth councillor, Richard Allum, resigned since then, she added.

According to the Sussex Express, the five who resigned issued a statement, which said: "By allowing this appeal to succeed [the government] has gone against the wishes and desires of the residents of Newick, ... against the spirit of the Localism Act 2011, and has totally eroded confidence in the principles of local democracy. It has made a mockery of all that the Act sought to achieve. This verdict will destroy Newick in time.

"Newick Parish Council and its residents are bitterly disappointed by this ruling.

"[We] consider the neighbourhood plan to be worthless and will now give open licence to developers to build on land anywhere round Newick."

A decision letter on behalf of Javid said he agreed with the recommendation by planning inspector Matthew Birkinshaw to allow the appeal.

The letter said that Javid agreed that the relevant saved policy in the Lewes District Local Plan was out of date and therefore the National Planning Policy Framework’s presumption in favour of sustainable development applied.

He gave "substantial weight" to the fact that the proposal "would contribute to the supply of housing, in a district where the full, objectively assessed, need cannot be met" and "where delivery is heavily constrained by other factors". Javid also gave "significant weight" to the provision of 20 affordable homes "in an area where the need is acute".

Earlier this year, the neighbourhood plan survived a legal challenge in the High Court, though the case has since been referred to the Court of Appeal.

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