Land News

Massive development for Crawley after govt overrule

icSurrey, 6th September, 2006

The Government has over-ruled Crawley Council and given building permission for the largest residential development in the town's history.

Local borough planners last year rejected the bid by Barrett Southern Counties for 270 homes to be built in linked blocks ranging from three-storeys to 10-storeys in height on land classed for "employment use" in Three Bridges due to the effect it would have on the area.

They were backed on appeal this year by an independent planning inspector. But Ruth Kelly MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, last week ruled the development should go through because of a housing shortage in the South East.

Council chiefs are this week seeking legal advice and have their sights set on a High Court battle.

Head planner Ted Beresford-Knox said: "In all my years of working in the planning department I have never seen a planning application for a development this huge on such a small area of land."

Furious local residents are gearing up for a David and Goliath-style battle with Ms Kelly and have a clear message for their councillors: "If you don't take this to the High Court, we will do it ourselves".

The development is planned for the old TBS and Seeboard site, in Russell Way, Three Bridges, and will be the highest and biggest residential development in the town due to the number of houses built on such a small plot of land.

Ian Street, 43, of Burwash Road, Furnace Green, said: "It is outrageous. The views of local people have been overlooked. If the council doesn't take the Government to the High Court, then I will."

At its tallest, the development would be the same height as the Crawley College Tower.

John Mulcahy, 40, of Beverley Mews, who petitioned against the original plans,said: "If this development goes ahead we will have a monstrosity on our doorsteps.

"It is excessively high and bulky, and will be extremely overbearing. It just won't fit in."

The council's Local Development Framework for Crawley recommends only 30 to 50 homes per hectare. The Russell Way development would be 333 per hectare.

Worth ward councillor Claire Denman said: "We were not expecting this.The arguments we put forward have been pushed to one side.

"I will be challenging Ruth Kelly to come to Crawley to see the area."

Burwash Road and Beverley Mews cover the same size area of land, but there are only 27 houses in Burwash Road and 61 houses and flats in Beverley Mews.

Christine Buckland, of Beverley Mews, said: "If Ruth Kelly had visited Crawley she would know the development would be too tall and too condensed. It would be totally out of keeping with the area.

"If the development goes ahead it will set a precedence and then who knows how many others will start appearing.They will ruin Crawley."

The Government set the council a target of 4,500 new homes in Crawley between 2001 and 2006, but the development planned for the north-east sector was put on hold in 1999 because of the possible expansion of Gatwick, which left the council chasing its targets.

The council recognised the need for housing, and permitted a development for 829 houses and flats at the old leisure centre site on Haslett Avenue, which is set to be completed in about two years.

But this development will be three times smaller than the one proposed for Russell Way.

With a large development taking place in the area already, residents are concerned that the area cannot cope with more people and cars.

Mr Mulcahy added: "The services in the area would be inadequate. The adjoining roads are not suitable for parking, GPs in the area are struggling, and most of the schools are full. And Three Bridges station needs to be improved."

The change of use of the land from employment to residential has also concerned the council.

Mr Beresford-Knox said: "Other areas look to Crawley for a main source of employment. If we build on employment land we jeopardise the future of Crawley."

The development is for a mix of studios and one and two-bedroom units with underground parking for 235 cars. Four further spaces will be allocated for a car club.

If it does go ahead, Barratt Southern Counties must contribute to education, transport, libraries, open spaces and make environmental improvements to Russell Way.

Martin Tuthill, land director for Barratt Southern Counties, said: "Planning was not granted at local level, but Barratt applied to the Secretary of State,as all developers are entitled to do. Planning was granted on this brownfield site as it will provide much-needed housing for the local area."

Ms Kelly refused to comment when her office was contacted.

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