Initial skirmishes over the future of Downlands Farm on the outskirts of Uckfield are under way.
- The landowner is taking action to deter people from walking over the land;
- A protest petition against any building is growing; and
- The developers have voluntarily agreed to submit an environmental statement (ES) in support of its forthcoming planning application to Wealden District Council.
Gleeson Strategic Land is proposing the development of the land which is between Snatts Road and the A22 by-pass.
As part of the planning process, the developer sought what is known as a “screening opinion” from the district council as to whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) was needed.
It has now voluntarily offered Wealden an Environmental Statement and this has been accepted by the council as an EIA application.
Stacey Robins, the council’s head of planning an environmental services, told agents for the developers that he had noted the scope of the statement should focus on the following “technical disciplines”:
- Landscape and visual effect; and
- Water resources and flood risk.
This latest news means the planners have decided such an evaluation is required and the fact is recorded on Wealden’s website.
Friend of the Earth says an EIA is a key aspect of many planning applications which is used to help understand the potential environmental impacts of development proposals.
Signs of change near Downlands Farm
A public footpath runs from Snatts Road between Downlands Farm and Paygate Wood and then on to Budletts Common, before tracking on past a handful of homes towards the by-pass and over to Maresfield.
The path is way marked and is now fenced on both sides, with the barbed wire barrier alongside Downlands Farm seemingly more recent, although it is broken in places.
Tracks are visible on to Downlands Farm where walkers and people taking their dog for a run have trodden down the undergrowth.
However, the East Sussex rights of way map shows no public footpaths running across the land.
Adjacent to the right of way is at least one sign prohibiting entry on to Downlands Farm.
Others are said to have been removed.
The notice also seems to address the issue of “presumed dedication”.
The Ramblers deals with the concept on their website and states:
Presumed dedication refers to a long-established principle that long use by the public without challenge can constitute evidence that the landowner intended to dedicate the used route as a public right of way.
Downlands Farm is not shown as open access land (right to roam) by Natural England. See here.
It is generally accepted that attempts to establish a right of way can be difficult to establish through what can be a lengthy process.
Spray paint has also been used to mark the footpath and a few trees on Downlands Farm.
This could be connected to initial surveying.
The petition to Wealden District Council planning and East Sussex County Council against the development was started by Mat Mitchell. It says:
“We want to stop the building on Green Belt land north of Uckfield. It has many species of native flora and fauna including deer, buzzards, red kites, kestrel, mice, stoat, lizards and snakes and many more to count.
The woodland comprise of mature oak, willow, birch, hazel, beech, alder, cherry hawthorn and blackthorn.
By mid-afternoon yesterday (September 23), the petition had attracted more than 2,300 signatures.