Two planning applications have been re-submitted now that a Wealden District Council rule restricting development within 7km of the Ashdown Forest has been abandoned.
One of the plans is to return the former doctors’ surgery at April Cottage, Buxted, to residential use. The other is for four new homes on the site of the former doctors’ surgery at The Meads, Grange Road, Uckfield.
Both planning applications were refused by Wealden, and a planning inspector supported the council’s decision relating to April Cottage at an appeal last year.
But the planning applications have been resubmitted unchanged after the Court of Appeal forced the district council to abandon its rule which restricted development close to the Forest without the provision of mitigation, known as SANGS.
There is more detail about the Court of Appeal decision here: 7km Ashdown Forest rule dropped but council says developers must prove plans will not harm forest.
A statement accompanying the planning application about April Cottage said the sole ground for refusal of the plan last year was increased visitor pressure on the Ashdown Forest and the fact that there were no adequate proposals within the application to mitigate the adverse effects.
The statement goes on to say advice is that the council would “very likely” approve the application this time subject to payment of £5,000 towards SANGS and £1,710 towards SAMMS, a Strategic Access Management and Monitoring Strategy for the Forest on the understanding that implementation of the approval would not take place until Wealden had secured the requisite SANGS.
An alternative suggestion from the owners was to attach a time limit of six months to the Grampian condition allowing occupation of the cottage within a maximum of six months of the date of planning approval.
“If SANGS were not ready for use at the end of the six months, we would agree not to occupy April Cottage ourselves nor to sell it for a period of two years, but to rent it via an established agent with a ‘no pet dogs’ clause in the rental agreement.
“This would ensure that any harm caused to the Ashdown Forest by the return of April Cottage to residential use would be minimal for two years following its occupation.
“Moreover, any residual harm that the residents of April Cottage might cause (from walking on the Forest without dogs over those two years) would be mitigated by the SAMMS component of our levy, which would of course be in place for 2.5 years from the time of approval of the application.”
At the Meads the plan is to build sheltered housing accommodation – two, two-bedroom and one one-bedroom bungalows – and convert an outbuilding to form a two-bedroom dwelling.
A statement with the planning application says: “In view of the current change in policy which formed the basis of the grounds of refusal dated September 19, 2014, I would trust that the planning department will now be able to recommend approval with regard to the decision at this time to re-submit the development proposals for The Meads.”
The statement points out that with about 8,500 patients registered previously at The Meads in a catchment area of between six and eight miles radius of Uckfield it was quite evident there would be a substantial reduction in car journeys to and from the small scale sheltered housing accommodation when compared with the previous use of the site as a doctors’ surgery.
“Clearly emission levels will also be considerably reduced with the benefit of the improved air quality in and around the Forest area.
“The Trust also intends to impose a restrictive covenant on the use of the sheltered housing accommodation whereby no dogs will be permitted.”