Arguments behind vote on Uckfield 1,000 homes plan

The proportion of affordable housing, a parking area at Little Horsted and the travel plan were all sticking issues when Wealden councillors discussed the 1,000 homes plan for Uckfield at a meeting yesterday.

Councillors eventually approved the outline planning application from Welbeck Strategic Land, as recommended by officers, but with slight amendments to conditions suggested.

They let go of an argument for increasing provision of affordable housing within the development to a minimum 20% overall and went instead with the officers’ recommendation of between 15 and 35%, varying according to viability as different phases of building progressed.

Councillors also took on board concerns of Little Horsted parish meeting and residents about having a car park – for an area of SANGS (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space), also described as a country park – of 28 spaces off Horsted Pond Lane.

They instead approved 14 permanent spaces at Little Horsted initially but said another 14 spaces should be found on the Ridgewood side of the A22 as the development progressed.

They also agreed secure fencing should be built to separate Little Horsted residents from the SANGS area.

Councillors voted there was no necessity to include laybys at the entrance into the site from the A22 to replace those which would be lost on the main road because of the development.

Cllr Stephen Isted said there was no need for replacement laybys because the existing ones were “full of articulated trailers”. They were not used as temporary parking but as storage areas.

Speakers at yesterday’s meeting of Wealden’s planning committee north included the chairman of Little Horsted Parish Meeting, Simon Autie who spoke about the car park for the SANGS area and security of residents, and Cara Jeffery of Forge Rise, whose concerns included encroachment onto her land by a planned pedestrian and cycleway from the Victoria Ground into Forge Rise.

Josh Gibbens from Anvil Close raised worries about  shortfall in provision for early years education places and at Uckfield Community Technology College; odour from the nearby sewage works; a fall below 35% of affordable housing and water off-flow into streams and the River Uck which could have “negative impact” at Isfield and Barcombe when there was heavy rainfall.

There were also speakers representing  Welbeck Strategic Land, including project manager Andrew Hodgson, who said they had acquired the land in 2011 and had since worked closely with town, district and county councils to develop a plan which had been rigorously tested and independently assessed to be included in the adopted core strategy and become a key component for planned and coordinated growth in the district.

He said three factors were of genuine benefit to Uckfield. They included the provision of 72 acres of SANGS which, would enable another 300 to 600 homes which already had planning permission to be built but were lying idle because of the need for SANGS.

He said there would be a new access road to the sewage treatment works which were currently accessed via Bridge Farm Road and that enough land would be provided on the development site for a two-form primary school when the requirement was for a one-form entry primary school.

Mr Hodgson argued the scheme had potential unique benefits that went beyond what was normally considered in the planning balance and it would bolster the council’s five-year housing supply.

Local members Cllr Barry Marlowe, Conservative, Uckfield Ridgewood Ward; Cllr Claire Dowling, Conservative, Uckfield Central; Cllr Roy Galley, Conservative, Danehill/Fletching/Nutley and Cllr Helen Firth, Conservative, Uckfield New Town, all spoke at the meeting but were not allowed a vote.

Cllr Marlowe welcomed the fact that new homes would be provided and that 300-400 jobs would be created on the development but he argued in favour of increasing the provision of affordable housing and wanted pedestrian and cycle access looked at again.

Cllr Dowling was also concerned about the level of affordable housing required and about the travel plan. She said if that wasn’t right then the new development would become like a dormitory village.

Cllr Galley welcomed the inclusion of the SANGS area, which would ensure this part of Little Horsted could not be developed, but he asked for the car park to be contained wholly on the Ridgewood side of the A22.

Cllr Firth said the minimum 150 affordable homes provided on the development was “completely unacceptable” and a “drop in the ocean” as to what was required.

She pointed out Uckfield Town Council had a ban on cycles on Victoria – other than for children learning to ride – and said that was because moving vehicles and children playing didn’t mix.

She also said that an access between the Victoria Ground and Forge Rise was never an official entrance to Victoria. It was a hole in the hedge created by residents. “I don’t see how it can be used as a cycle access. It is not official.”

She added that to bring the cycle way in from Shepherds Way was another intrusion on local residents and she didn’t know how additional traffic would be absorbed into New Town when there was major congestion already with residential streets, such as Mill Lane, being used as rat runs.

Cllr Firth wanted a decision on the planning application deferred until all local authorities could get together to thrash out all these issues.

A county council highways representative reiterated “serious” concerns about the development saying cycle routes were “woefully inadequate”. She said they were “not supporting the application” because of major concerns in relation to travel planning.

A distinction between “objecting” to a planning application and “not supporting it” was pointed out by a Wealden planning officer who said that if the planning application was refused on highways grounds without an objection from highways then the grounds would not be accepted by a planning inspector at appeal.

The officer said councillors must bear in mind that the site was within the core strategy and the council had specifically selected the amount of development on the site. He said that one or two relatively minor issues did not outweigh the benefits.

The full debate can be seen on a Wealden Council webcast. See the agenda to the right of the screen and click on the Ridgewood Farm application to go to the relevant part of the meeting.

See also:

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