Wealden councillors yesterday approved a reserved matters planning application for 119 new homes on the Harlands Farm Estate, Uckfield.
Efforts were made to defer the decision because of the complexity of the application with concerns raised about potential flooding, lack of infrastructure in the town, and traffic issues.
There was also concern about the length of time that had elapsed between approval of an outline planning application and submission of the reserved matters application.
But it was made clear to councillors by head of planning and environmental services Chris Bending that it was only the layout, landscape, scale and appearance of homes already with planning consent that were up for discussion.
Mr Bending said: “It needs to be well understood by all those watching and engaging in this debate. This is a reserved matter. That doesn’t mean we are talking about any principle issues.
“We are simply not talking about flooding issues beyond the site. We are not talking about traffic issues beyond the site. We are not talking about infrastructure issues in the town. These are not issues for this application.”
He also pointed out that there was already planning consent for 146 homes to be built on the site off Mallard Drive but in the reserved matters application that number had been reduced to 119. “That is around one sixth fewer homes than the council considered to be appropriate, yes, a while ago, but that is still the consented position on the site”.
He said discussion and debate needed to be relevant to the current application and not to past applications which could not be reconsidered now.
It was Cllr Peter Roundell, Maresfield Ward, who recommended the reserved matters application for approval after saying it was a “horrible” decision to have to make. His proposal was seconded by Cllr Susan Stedman, of Horam and Punnets Town.
Cllr Roundell said: “My heart goes out to my fellow councillors in Uckfield because we are saddled with having to make a decision on something that started off a long time ago.
“We all know what is going on in Uckfield with regard to traffic. There are concerns about delivery of infrastructure.”
He said councillors were stuck between a rock and a hard place but had to be realistic. He couldn’t see the point of going to appeal on this, or risking an appeal with costs having to be borne eventually by the electorate.
He said it was “with huge reluctance” that he proposed acceptance, with conditions recommended by officers. “It really pains me. I really don’t like it at all, but we are where we are and we have to be realistic.”
Councillors also specified they would like to see a holding area within the site for construction traffic, and they didn’t want a conflict with school hours. They also wanted to see further consultation on every matter, particularly with Uckfield Town Council.