Here is some detailed information following questions raised by Ifield residents provided by CBC Forward planning staff. I can offer the following advice, which I hope will provide some reassurance:
The land within Crawley Borough Council’s administrative boundaries, to the back (west) of St. Margaret’s Church, known as Ifield Brook Meadows, is protected by a number of designations, set out in the Crawley Borough Local Plan (both the one adopted in 2015 and the emerging draft Review Plan). These relate to its importance for a number of different purposes:
Local Green Space: this is an overarching designation for its importance and value to the local community for recreation, visual amenity, tranquillity, wildlife, heritage and accessible countryside. Part of this site also includes the council owned playing fields on Rusper Road, to the south-eastern corner of the site (and outside of the Local Wildlife Site).
Conservation Area: the northern section of the Meadows falls within the Ifield Village Conservation Area, for its heritage value as an important element of the setting of the village and the Grade I Listed Church.
Local Wildlife Site: Ifield Brook Meadows have been independently identified by a panel of experts as a Local Wildlife Site for its importance as meadowland and associated wildlife.
Ancient Woodland: this runs along Ifield Brook in the southern part of the wider Meadows site (south of the Conservation Area).
Due to these designations, the protection and enhancement of the meadows for its existing wildlife, heritage and informal recreation function is paramount. Policies within the Local Plan (adopted and emerging) require this as the current position and will continue to be the council’s position should development on the administrative boundaries, within Horsham district, go ahead. The provision of formal sports pitches or any structure that would be incongruous to the heritage value of the meadows in forming the setting of the Church and village, or that would damage the wildlife value of the meadows would not be considered acceptable.
The reference in the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment to consideration being given to the Meadows providing recreation value for wider development is in the context of it being promoted by the owner for this purpose in the understanding that none of the site is considered suitable by Crawley Borough Council for housing (or other) built development. CBC would consider such proposals should they come in in accordance with the above designations and associated Local Plan policies and its role as a Local Green Space.
CBC previously sought to request the site become a Local Nature Reserve. However, the council is not the landowner for this site and this process requires the agreement of the landowner which at that time it was unable to secure. CBC will continue to consider the opportunities to pursue the site as such through subsequent discussions going forward.
Cllr Peter Smith