Latest draft Wealden plan increases number of homes to be built in district

Wealden Council has increased the number of homes to built in the district between 2013 and 2028 from 11,456 to 14,228 in the latest draft of its Local Plan.Wealden logo cropped

The new figure is included in the Local Plan Draft Proposed Submission Document. Of those 14,228 homes, 7,700 have already been built, or have planning permission.

The council says the document contains a range of environmental measures to ensure growth can proceed “without causing irreversible damage to our regionally important ecology”.

Wealden cabinet member for planning and development Cllr Ann Newton said: “Our proposals are in line with the latest Government aims to meet the widespread housing need.

Mitigation

“Mitigation measures and a thorough review system will ensure that the growth and prosperity needed in Wealden does not conflict with our many environmental responsibilities.

“These include Ashdown Forest, one of the largest stretches of lowland heath in Britain; the Lewes Chalk Downs and the Pevensey Levels.

“Developers will be expected to install certain infrastructure items on site and make a contribution to ensure this protection succeeds.”

Focus of growth

The council says the focus of growth remains on the south of the district, but the 2018 plan allows for a more balanced approach to housing and economic growth across the district to reduce the need to commute.

It outlines opportunities for retail and employment to support this.

Smaller sites for housing have been identified within “sustainable” settlements. The majority are in Hailsham, Polegate and Willington, Stone Cross, Ninfield, Horam, Heathfield, Mayfield and Wadhurst. These sites will account for 4,012 new homes.

Windfall developments

Windfall developments may account for a further 2,516 homes. Some can be delivered within development boundaries and through Neighbourhood Development Plans, which allow the community an involvement in site allocation.

The windfall developments also include core areas where local housing needs of a small scale can be met.

The following places are listed: Arlington, Bells Green, Berwick Station, Blackboys, Broad Oak, Chelwood Common, Danehill, Framfield, Frant, Hadlow Down, Hankham, Isfield, Lower Horsebridge, Maresfield, Mark Cross, Punnetts Town, Ripe Chalvington, Rushlake Green, Town Row, Upper Dicker and Windmill Hill.

Single homes

Development of single homes in the countryside is not ruled out, providing they conform to development plan policies, particularly those regarding property on agricultural land.

Wealden says land won’t be released without the “timely provision” of the infrastructure necessary to deliver housing.

This includes transport improvements in the South Wealden Growth Area, improvements to the Hailsham North and Hailsham South Waste Water Treatment Works, and mitigation measures for Ashdown Forest Special Area of Conservation.

Review

If these do not take place a review will be triggered in part of, or in the whole of, the plan.

A council press release says the delivery of road improvements, schools and medical provision has always been a key part of the Wealden Local Plan.

It says: “Wealden will be working with key local stakeholders, strategic transport providers and developers to enable the funding and delivery of the strategic road at the earliest opportunity.”

The press release says the plan also identifies land for up to 22,500 additional square metres of employment floor space, and 4,350 square metres additional retail floor space over the period 2015 to 2028.

Consultation

The Draft of the Local Plan Proposed Submission Document takes into account a consultation which took place during the autumn of 2015. More than 2,000 responses were received from 412 residents and organisations.

The draft document will be presented to a full meeting of Wealden Council on Wednesday, July 18. If approved there will be a period when the public can make representations as to the soundness of the plan before it is sent to an independent planning inspector for a final decision.

The document can be seen on the Wealden Council website, along with Local Plan Sub-Committee agenda papers here.

Mitigation required to protect ecology and environment

Measures have been included in the Local Plan Draft Proposed Submission Document to mitigate development.

The council says increased emissions from vehicles travelling in and around the district threaten to worsen the degraded ecology of Ashdown Forest heathland. They also threaten chalk grassland of the Lewes Downs Special Area of Conservation, which outside the district.

Wealden says air quality mitigation measures are necessary for identified development where it would lead to an increase in local traffic movements.

Other measures

These include a financial contribution and other measures including electric vehicle charging infrastructure, guaranteed high speed broadband connections, and the provision of electric public transport, cycling and walking schemes to reduce the use of petrol and diesel vehicles.

The council will also work with Natural England, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and neighbouring authorities to jointly progress a Site Nitrogen Action Plan which will proactively seek to further reduce levels of nitrogen deposition over the longer term.

Wealden says the protected bird species of Ashdown Forest is also threatened by increased visitor numbers connected to new housing. To avoid and mitigate this the Local Plan has a three-tiered approach.

Ashdown Forest

Residential development will not be permitted within 400 metres of Ashdown Forest Special Protection Area unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Development within 7kms of Ashdown Forest SPA will require a financial contribution towards the provision and maintenance of Suitable Alternative Natural Green Spaces (SANGS), and the Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Stragety (SAMMS).

Large development schemes close to, but beyond, the 7km boundary may, after assessment, be required to implement mitigation measures to ensure there is no detrimental impact on the SPA.

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