A Sussex farmer has been hailed as a hero after refusing to sell his land to developers for up to £275 million.
Robert Worsley, 48, has been surprised by the number of calls he has received from national press wishing to sing his praises after it was revealed that he refused to sell his 550 acres of land in Twineham to Mayfield Market Town, near Horsham.
He was asked to sell his land to enable its plan to create a new town with up to 10,000 new homes.
“I don’t want to be recognised but I want to speak for the people that don’t have a voice,” said Mr Worsley. “The people who are suffering as a result of the planning inspectorate’s imposition on planning policies.
“There’s a legal system being used to deny local people a say in their local area. We are promised localism and the voice of the local people is plain but the developers are choosing to put on their ear defenders.
“Housing demand here is insatiable. Where does it end?”
He also pointed out that he was not the only land owner who refused to sell his land. He said other farmers in the area have also been approached and also refused.
All of them refused to let a developer initiative a development which the community does not want.
Despite his attempts to avoid the spotlight Mr Worsley has been upheld as an example to the rest of the community and residents praised him on Facebook.
Rhonda van Veggel said: “This is a good reminder for us to support local farmers more than ever, to ensure they have profitable operations and not be forced into selling because they are not.”
Gillian Watkins added: “What a amazing thing to do, we need more people like this guy. Otherwise we will have no countryside left.”
Richard Watson, Roberts’ neighbour and member of the campaign group LAMBS (Locals Against Mayfield Building Sprawl) said local councillors have come up with other suitable and preferential sites for development.
He said if the government really wished to uphold their promise of ‘localism’, these preferential sites of development should be the only ones used.
“The council should be able to make the decisions, not the developers.
“We don’t see how wealthy developers have total disregard for the local democratic planning process.”
Mayfield Market Towns Limited is promoting proposals for a New Market Town on an area of land between Sayers Common and Henfield.
Nick Herbert MP for Arundel and South Downs has echoed Mr Worsley’s concerns.
He said: “I understand that landowners have been told by this developer, ‘You know you might as well give in – it’s going to come anyway so you might as well accept our cheque’.
“The only comments they could possibly have had locally are negative ones. I have not encountered anyone in my constituency who wants me to support this development.
“They persist in pursuing this proposal even after it has been rejected by one inquiry after another.
“The tactics of this company are really shoddy bullying tactics and it has created a huge amount of local resentment and blighted this area.”
Lee Newlyn director at Mayfield Market Towns said new homes it was hoped the land could be used toward the creation of a new town.
He said: “There is a huge shortage of housing in this region and we believe that delivering these new homes in the form of a new town, with all the proper infrastructure and facilities in place, is a much more sustainable alternative to add-on development in and around existing towns and villages.
“An independent survey carried out by Ipsos MORI also demonstrated that, when asked how new homes should be delivered, more people in Mid Sussex and Horsham said that they would prefer to see new homes built in the form of a single new town with its own facilities, such as schools, shops and doctors.”
Director Peter Freeman said: “My involvement in Mayfield follows a long term belief that new towns can create exceptional sustainable, accessible and diverse communities and provide significant social and economic benefits compared with normal suburban housing development.”
Planning inspector Geoff Salter scrutinised Horsham District Council’s local plan in November last year and suggested in his initial report at least 15,000 should be planned for up to 2031 and he considered a new settlement was ‘not required in current circumstances’.
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