Campaigners fighting o save Cuckfield’s ell-loved play meadow have moved a step closer to victory after receiving backing from the High Court.
Flis Irving, who has fought tirelessly to keep the meadow as a community space, was delighted to receive news that the High Court had quashed Mid Sussex District Council’s grant of planning permission to build a substantial house on the land at the end of Courtmead Road.
Leading planning judge Mr Justice Gilbart found that the council had acted unlawfully as the planning consent breached planning policy. He focused on the harm to the Cuckfield Conservation Area, which the Council had actually identified before it went on to grant planning permission.
“It proves that if an individual fights had enough for a just cause, it is possible to win against powerful government bodies with huge financial resources,” reflected Flis. “It is the first time in almost three years that there has been full scrutiny of the Council’s actions by an independent, qualified expert, and he found that the Council had acted unlawfully. It is significant that M Justice Gilbart highlighted the importance of preserving The Play Meadow as part of the Cuckfield Conservation Area for the benefit of local people. I hope that the Council will finally take note and stop fighting or a third party to develop it.”
Flis, along with support from owner of Next Step Nursery School Janet Beales, has led the high profile campaign to keep The Play Meadow open for use by local people. In a recent interview with BBC Radio Sussex, Flis explained why the meadow is of such value to the village. “It is so rare to have an area of green in the centre of a village that can be of benefit o the whole community,” she said. “With all the building that’s currently going on all around… every little bit of green area being gobbled up, it is an absolute delight to have this Play Meadow here.” When asked why she had engaged in this battle with the Council, Flis responded: “It was morally wrong what they were doing. They were acting as judge and jury… against what the local people had voted for in the Local Plan, which was to keep the meadow as a green space.”
A Mid Sussex District Council spokesperson said the land had been identified as a building plt as far back as the 1980s and added: “We are pleased that the court has clarified the complex legal position around one of the applications on this site.”
Flis is aware that her fight is not yet over as the Council is likely to appeal the decision.