“Don’t you always seem to know, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”, so sang Joni Mitchell way back 50 years ago, gosh that dates me!

Well, there’s a possibility that we’ll all be singing that refrain in a few years if the Mayfield proposed development goes ahead. A few days ago, four of us took a walk around part of the land identified by the developers as ripe to put 7,000 houses on. Anyone walking around this area and think it could be ‘improved’ by a housing estate just staggers me. We were there to do a bird survey and we recorded a great variety of birds, a number of which were on the red and amber listed species of serious conservation because of decline on the breeding populations. These include kestrel, cuckoo, skylark, reed bunting, house sparrow and starling.

Perhaps the most staggering of sites included in the plan is the floodplain south of the Rive Adur. Here the river was full of dragon and damselflies, such as banded damselflies, red-eyed damselflies, hairy dragonflies and scarce chaser dragonflies. The reed-lined banks provided breeding sites for many reed warblers and we saw a female reed bunting carrying nesting material. A muddy bay was full of baby fish, the sign of a very healthy river. One of the proposals for the river is to enhance it! How this is supposed to be done is yet unknow, it is unbelievable in this day and age that building on a floodplain is even considered as an option, has nothing been learned from the problem’s houses built on floodplains in the past?

There are so many reasons why this development should not be considered. In terms of the environment, the whole issue of global climate change and the drastic loss of biodiversity across the planet has been highlighted by the United Nations in the last few months and, at last, there is the understanding the effect of these two issues will have on our planet is critical. Therefore, any decisions of the scale that this development proposes must be at the forefront of their considerations. So, it is imperative that a comprehensive independent biological survey of the whole area must be undertaken with full resources being given to do this.

There is a huge opposition to this proposal, led by LAMBS, who have already gone through the process when the original application was submitted to Mid-Sussex District Council who rejected it outright, and now Henfield Parish Council. Mayfield are now looking at re-submission of a plan, this time all within the Horsham District, undoubtedly hoping for a more favourable outcome.

Horsham District Council are under enormous pressure to meet the housing quota imposed on them by the Government. The original application was rejected by Mid-Sussex District Council on appeal to the Inspector, who would only re-consider the application should a second runway at Gatwick Airport be approved. To put a new town on an important Wealden landscape full of hedgerows, small copses, meadows and wetlands that host an increasingly rich variety of wildlife is inconceivable, let alone allowing people to access this area through a great network of footpaths.

It can only be hoped that Horsham DC take the same approach and reject this outrageous proposal.