Wealden Council’s report sets out the context and reasoning behind future development plans for Uckfield.
It says: “Because of its location in the middle of District situated along the A22/ A26 corridor it acts as a hub and service centre for a wide catchment of surrounding villages and settlements.
“Unlike other areas of Wealden Uckfield has a relatively younger population profile, with 285 households on the housing register in June 2010.
“The town has two successful and fully occupied business areas.
Separation of sixth form college
“There are capacity issues in secondary school provision and growth may require the separation of the sixth form college from the main school.
“The town has a number of attractive open spaces around its edges, which contribute to its character, but there is unfulfilled potential for creation of a network of green spaces connecting around the urban area, and linking through to the town centre.
“The town suffered major flooding in 2000 and flood risk remains a major constraint on future proposals.
“There is significant traffic congestion in the town centre at the junction of the B2102/ Lower High Street and at the Bell Lane roundabout.
Traffic management scheme
“The Highway Authority is currently modelling design solutions for delivery of a traffic management scheme in the town centre aimed at addressing these issues.
“Uckfield benefits from a rail link to London, and it is intended to continue to safeguard the potential extension to Lewes where it could connect to another part of the national network.
“Whilst recent studies have confirmed that there is no current operational or business case to reinstate the line to Lewes, it is considered that circumstances and criteria for assessment of any business case may change in the future and the Council continues to support the principle.
“A centrally located bus station, adjacent to the railway station, provides a transport hub with a wide range of services to neighbouring towns and villages.
“The town centre has a good range and variety of shopping, and there is scope for further expansion and improvement of facilities and public spaces. The Council is working actively with the Town Council, East Sussex County Council and East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, principal land owners in the town, to prepare a master plan approach to help guide the future regeneration of the town centre.
“This has already gained considerable momentum and the partners are committed to taking the concept of a joint, multi-agency framework forward in conjunction with the LDF. It is recognised that funding the required infrastructure and town centre improvements will require significant additional housing development to help pay for them.
“The SHLAA revealed a number of potential sites at the fringes of the urban area, although many were considered unsuitable due to a combination of access, landscape and topographical issues. The most significant brown field opportunity lies within the town centre in association with the comprehensive redevelopment of that area; all other significant available land is greenfield.
“In order to limit the impact of new housing development on the conservation interests of the Ashdown Forest, development will need to make provision for areas of suitable alternative natural green space as part of strategic development in the town, contribute to management measures on the Ashdown Forest and increase self-ufficiency of Uckfield itself in order to reduce the reliance on the private motor car and reduce the potential impact of growth on the Ashdown Forest through nitrogen emissions.
“This will include consideration of initiatives to discourage the use of the car.
“The Council proposes significant further housing growth in Uckfield as part of its strategy for the town. In support of this it wishes to ensure that the town reaches its full potential to provide the essential range of services and facilities required, in an attractive environment that is easily accessible.
“Improving the vitality and attractiveness of the town centre is a key to delivering sustainable development and improving the quality of life of residents. Widening the choice and variety of jobs and services available will help reduce the need for longer distance travel.
“The following strategy reflects our commitment to a pro-active approach to town centre development and change, supported by a joint, multi-agency framework (comprising the District Council, Town Council, County Council and their partners) which is essential if levels of housebuilding are to be sustainably accommodated.
“The aim is to provide the support and infrastructure needed to plan, manage and promote the town in a positive way, and to ensure the aspirations of the local community can be realised.
Enhance Uckfield’s role
“The strategy seeks to enhance the role of Uckfield as a District Centre serving its local community and surrounding area by:
1. Continuing to work with Uckfield Town Council and East Sussex County Council, and with local land owners and developers, to build on the Uckfield town master planning initiative, and to ensure that this is developed in conjunction with the Delivery and Site Allocations DPD as part of the Council’s Local Development Framework;
2. Supporting appropriate development within the built up area contained within the Uckfield development boundary, which will be reviewed as part of the site allocation DPDs;
3. Continuing to meet the housing and community needs of the District and Uckfield by:
- Allocating land for housing as part of comprehensive redevelopment of the retail centre; and
- Allocating land for around 1,000 homes and some 12,650 sq. metres net employment floorspace and education provision as an extension to the urban area to the west of New Town (SD1). The allocation of land is subject to the provision of a suitable access and a number of other factors to be addressed in the relevant allocations DPD which may increase the risk to delivery. If development has not commenced on this site by 2016 a review of the Core Strategy in relation to the Uckfield area will be required;
4. Creating new open spaces and increasing the accessibility of existing open spaces to provide a greenspace network as part of the proposed town extension, and which provides opportunities for walkers, riders and cyclists. This will incorporate a green corridor to the west and south of the town which will link to existing recreational and landscape features including and provide a suitable alternative natural green space to mitigate potential impacts of additional population growth on the Ashdown Forest;
5. Supporting the creation of additional amenity and open space along the river corridor;
6. Supporting employment growth and increase the range of local job opportunities by encouraging the provision of office space and commercial premises around the town;
7. Supporting the sensitive redevelopment and expansion of the town centre, including additional retail floorspace of around 10,707 sq. metres net retail floorspace as part of a comprehensive scheme of improvements which will increase the attractiveness of Uckfield and help create a vibrant and inclusive town centre;
8 Providing through Site Allocation DPDs a detailed scheme to reduce traffic congestion;
9 Supporting the enhancement of the pedestrian environment through environmental improvements and revitalisation of the public realm; and 10.Ensuring appropriate mitigation and avoidance measures to ensure that future housing and employment is not subject to flood risk, and does not exacerbate flood risk elsewhere.