Housing plan on edge of Midhurst would cause ‘unacceptable landscape harm’

Mature trees cut down by developers in Midhurst. Photo by Derek Martin
Mature trees cut down by developers in Midhurst. Photo by Derek Martin

Controversial plans for up to 32 new homes on the edge of Midhurst look set for refusal when they go in front of the planning committee of the South Downs National Park Authority next Thursday (June 15).

Developers were accused of ‘wanton deforestation’ by Midhurst Town Council planners who visited the site south of Barlavington Way, originally part of West Lavington Hill House and in the parish of West Lavington

They said they were ‘appalled’ by what they called the ‘wholesale clearance’ of the site where mature trees had been hacked down.

There are a raft of objections to the plans from ICS Estates Ltd which wants outline planning permission for up to 20 open market open and 12 affordable houses.

Arboricultural officers have objected saying there was a loss of two hectares of woodland.

“Unless it is restocked, it should be subject to a management plan to improve the habitat value rather than be developed.”

They added: “There were mature trees, including a 135 year old oak cleared for one of the access ways.” They added: “There has been the loss of woodland habitat which even if classed as ‘scrub’ still is valuable habitat” and clearance may have impacted on barbastelle and other bats previously recorded on the site.

West Lavington parish councillors have also made strong objections saying developers’ claims that a public consultation had been held in Midhurst were ‘misleading.

“Residents in West Lavington including the parish council have not been directly consulted and the results from the consultation are unrepresentative of public opinion.”

They said it was a greenfield site outside the settlement policy boundary and should be ruled out for new development.

Parish councillors also pointed out the national park’s housing land assessment had rejected the site ‘because it would cause adverse impact on the character and appearance of the landscape’.

In their report due to go before members of the national park’s planning committee on Thursday, planning officers recommended refusal of the plan because it was outside the settlement boundary and did not constitute a ‘rural housing exception scheme’ providing homes for local people. They report there is ‘no overriding justification’ for the development of the site which would cause ’unacceptable landscape harm’.

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