Brighton Kemptown MP Simon Kirby has spoken out against plans to build a housing estate in Ovingdean.
He promised to press ministers to call in – or review – any planning application submitted to Brighton and Hove City Council to develop housing on the Meadow Vale area.
Mr Kirby made the pledge at a rally against proposed housing on the nine-acre site at Longhill High School on Thursday evening (17 April).
Lightwood Property, based in Esher, Surrey, wants to build 112 homes on the greenfield site.
Nancy Platts, Labour’s candidate for Brighton Kemptown at the next general election, also opposed the proposal.
But she said that it was only made possible as a result of changes to planning policies introduced in 2011 by the government and supported by Mr Kirby.
Lightwood says on its website: “Lightwood is promoting this site to Brighton and Hove City Council as part of their consultation process.
“Our proposed plan is unique in the sense that the development parcel falls outside of any prohibitive designations and allows the local authority the opportunity to increase housing numbers while protecting the sensitive policy designations.
“A planning application is currently being worked on which will be informed by consultation with the local community.”
Mr Kirby said: “People are rightly angry that the special village feel of Ovingdean, Rottingdean and Woodingdean could be compromised by this development.
“I pledged to work with residents and ministers to do all I can do to stop this proposal from being agreed.”
He told the meeting: “The huge number of people here tonight demonstrates most clearly the strength of the opposition to development at this site which I am sure the council will be noting.
“When I was first made aware of the potential development at this site I immediately met with the developers to raise my immediate concerns.
“I then surveyed local residents to get your views. The volume of responses was incredible.
“Almost 3,000 people took the time to respond with 98 per cent of people sharing my opposition.
“Some people will accuse us all of just being Nimbys but that is not what I see when I look at everyone here.
“I see a group of people who care deeply about their local area, people who accept that housing is needed but recognise that Meadow Vale is simply not an appropriate site for a whole host of reasons that I am sure will be elaborated on tonight by the other speakers.
“I strongly believe the city council should be looking more closely at brownfield sites and infill sites across the city to deliver more housing before approving developments on valuable green land here in the Ovingdean, Woodingdean, Rottingdean area.
“Development at Meadow Vale would jeopardise the distinct village feel of Ovingdean, Rottingdean and Woodingdean, which is part of what makes these areas so special.
“Having seen previous maps with other parcels of land in the area highlighted by the developers, I am also concerned that any development here could be the thin end of the wedge
“Call me a cynic but I am sceptical of any reassurances given by the developers that there are no plans to develop these sites at a later date and worry they may see permission at this site as merely the first step.
“Finally, anyone who has, like most of us here tonight, sat in traffic on the Falmer Road, at the Downs crossroads, Rottingdean High Street or the South Coast Road at rush hour, knows that the idea of putting more cars on these roads is utter madness.
“I will continue to work tirelessly alongside the Deans Preservation Group and local residents to fight development at this site.
“If it comes to it, I will request the Secretary of State calls in the application to take the decision out of the hands of the city council.
“I was reassured by a recent letter I obtained from the Minister for Planning where he emphasised to the Planning Inspector that fundamental to the National Planning Policy Framework is the idea that local communities are in charge of planning for their own areas and that key protections would remain for green sites.
“Working together, we can fight any planning application that is submitted for Meadow Vale.”
Nancy Platts also spoke in support of the Save Our Deans campaign.
She said: “I have spent the last few weeks talking personally to people living in the area and I have yet to meet anyone who backs the proposed move to build 112 homes on this greenfield site.
“Everyone I meet expresses concern over traffic and transport issues as well as the availability of school places.
“The council tried to protect this piece of land by not identifying it for development in its City Plan but since then the planning inspector has stated all such sites should be considered for development in accordance with the government’s new planning policies.
“These policies also make it harder for local people to object to development as council planning committees now have to abide by a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ which means local authorities face being fined if they do not support applications that are allowed on appeal to the planning inspector.
“I am now calling upon Conservative MP Simon Kirby, who voted for this new planning policy, to talk to the Secretary of State and ask him to change the policy so that we can Save Our Deans now and protect them in the future.”