Wealden councillors have deferred making a decision about a planning application for a Solar Electric Forecourt off Uckfield by-pass.
Officers had recommended approval with conditions but when members of planning committee north met yesterday they were told that further material from the applicant arrived later than expected and that meant East Sussex County Council was unable to review it in time for the meeting.
Councillors were told: “To be clear, colleagues at county have committed resources to this, but the review work spans several teams, including the safety audit team. So close to Christmas, insufficient time is available for a thorough review.”
It is hoped the application will be reported in the New Year once highway details have been reviewed in full detail.
More about the plan
From an Uckfield News story on December 14: The proposals, which include a solar farm, WCs, coffee shop, retail, seating area, meeting rooms/workspace and display area, are due to be discussed at a meeting of Planning Committee North on Thursday (December 17).
The forecourt and associated development would be accessed from the Copwood Roundabout via a new fourth arm.
A report to the planning committee says the local member, Cllr Roy Galley, has declined to allow the exercise of officer powers to issue the decision because of the “sheer scale of the impact, environmentally, and socially, on a number of communities”.
But the report stresses: “Members can be clear on the need for this development. The Government agenda is clear on its preference for the electric transport future.”
The report says the developement would be suitably located on the strategic road network in the proximity of 1,000 new homes, and Ashdown Business Park.
And it meets two policy objectives, seeking the growth of innovative business within the district and improving economic prosperity.
Further detail is needed by the Highway Authority about footpath access but the report says it is expected a solution will be found to this issue.
The report continues saying: “It is noted that the development would have some competing uses to the town centre, but these have been carefully justified, and are needed to support the overall proposals by allowing customers to continue to work or relax whilst their car is on charge.
“This would be akin to the services on offer at other filling stations in the area, such as the McDonald’s and Waitrose shop that is on offer at the petrol filling station 2.5km north on the A22.
“The design of the proposed building is exceptional, it would contribute to the modern forward-looking nature of this development that will both generate electricity to enable the function of fast charge sites which are currently not on offer within the district due to the nature of the electricity grid in this area.
“The development would enable both local residents, and local business, and fleet drivers, on the network to transition to electric vehicles.
“Given the sensitivity of the Ashdown Forest to changes in soil, acidity that is a by-product of both petrol and diesel cars, the development would also help to improve the status of this European site.”
The report says potential impacts on archaeological interest at the site can be mitigated, the setting of listed buildings would not be harmed because of the separation from the site, and mitigation, including biodiversity enhancement, can also be provided to take account of potential impacts on biodiversity.
It adds: “On the balance of considerations here, the significant benefits of renewable energy provision, energy security, and reduction in carbon emissions, and the enabling of a transition for the use of electric vehicles outweigh the moderate harmful localised visual impact on the undesignated landscape.
“In addition the effects upon residential amenity, and short period of disruption during the site set up are considered to be within the tolerances of relevant policies.”
The full report, about the application, number WD/2020/1244/MAJ, can be found on the Wealden website here.
It includes comments from Highways Authority, Southern Water Services, Police, County Archaeologist, Lead Local Flood Authority, ESCC Rights of Way, East Sussex Fire and Rescue.
Objections from Uckfield Town Council and Fletching, Maresfield, and Little Horsted Parish Councils, are also included in the report.