Wealden Council planning policy has been dealt a second blow within a matter of weeks.
First came news of a defeat at the Court of Appeal over its 7km Ashdown Forest protection zone and now a planning inspector has overturned a decision to refuse permission for 103 new homes to be built at Steel Cross, Crowborough.
The Steel Cross site was not included in the council’s Core Strategy, falls within what used to be the 7km protection area and is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The planning inspector’s ruling can be seen on the Wealden Council website. Follow this link, scroll to Group: Appeal Documentation and see Appeal Decision at the top of the list.
The council has reacted to the news saying it will go to the High Court if necessary to challenge the outcome.
In addition the council says that following the Court of Appeal decision which forced it to remove the 7km Ashdown Forest protection zone it has decided that, in future, development proposals within an increased area of the Ashdown Forest – 15km – will come under scrutiny to counter potential habitat harm there.
Wealden Council says this move is “a direct result of a challenge mounted by landowners to the council’s protection policy”.
It says visitor surveys used to gauge the recreational pressure on Ashdown Forest have shown that Wealden residents visiting it come from around 15km of the Ashdown Forest Special Protection Area.
But, the council says, mitigation measures which will counter potential habitat harm are being brought forward which will enable “smaller sustainable developments” to proceed in the 15km area.
The council says such proposals will still rely on the Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space, Strategic Access management and Monitoring Strategy and other mitigation schemes.
Cllr Ann Newton, Wealden cabinet portfolio holder for planning said: “The progress we have now made is an opportunity to move forward with a range of smaller sustainable developments which are not reliant on building on greenfield sites close to the forest.”
Cllr Newton added: “Whilst I am happy to see that we are now in a position to see certain development with the mitigation take place, it is not open season for unsustainable speculative development in Ashdown Forest and surrounding areas.”
Steel Cross, Crowborough
At the same time as announcing the update on measures to protect the Ashdown Forest Cllr Newton commented on the Steel Cross planning appeal decision.
She said the council would be “robustly” challenging the planning inspector’s decision and taking it to the High Court if necessary.
“Many people have been justifiably disappointed with the outcome of the Steel Cross housing site appeal in Crowborough.
“The planning inspector’s decision grants planning permission in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the house numbers exceed any development targes set out in our adopted and sound Core Strategy Local Plan.”
Cllr Newton added: “As a forward-thinking council, we appreciate the need to allocate land in appropriate areas for housing growth. This should be undertaken in a planned and sustainable way that does not impact upon our environment and not be wholly developer led.
“This will form part of the 2015 review of the Local Plan which we are currently undertaking in line with our original Core Strategy.”