Garden village plan offers little cheer for Uckfield’s young home seekers – Observer

Building new garden towns and villages across England to meet local housing needs, especially for first-time buyers is a laudable aim.

A site in Surrey appears the nearest to us which means a vast number of young Sussex people will remain frozen out of the housing market, writes the independent columnist, Observer.

To a large extent, the new estates which have sprung up around Uckfield in recent years have not catered for first-time buyers, or provided sufficient affordable homes.

Planning system ‘at fault’

That’s the fault of the planning system, which has been so weakly controlled by successive governments that a huge imbalance has sprung up. [I accept that in a free market economy, the developers will do the best to maximise profits but the contra argument is that more central control would be fairer for all]

Take, for example, the 1,000 homes to be built at Ridgewood.

If all those were aimed at first-time buyers or as “affordable”, that would make a huge difference.

Affordable homes decision

But look what happened when it came to the granting of planning permission by Wealden District Council.

People in Uckfield pressed for 35 per cent affordable housing. What did we get? Councillors accepted a minimum of 15 per cent.

I am tempted to say the councillors should hang their heads in shame. However, I won’t say that because to a large extent their hands were tied by central government planning policies.

The council knew if it pressed for 35 per cent, the developer would probably appeal and – under the current rules – win the day. Wealden could then face paying costs.

Manor Park Estate

The garden villages are a step in the right direction but I’m afraid the numbers are a drop in the ocean and do nothing for large swathes of the population.

Of course, Uckfield’s Manor Park Estate was a “garden village” of around 1,000 homes when it was built.

It was set out with plenty of green space, with in parts a general separation of cars and footpaths.

We know what happened. In the last 15 years many of those gaps have been filled.

Infilling continues

Uckfield Town Council plans committee continues to object to infilling. I am afraid the battle was lost a long time ago.

Back in November, Wealden District Council (the planning authority) told the town council when approving a planning application in Tower Ride:

“In this case the development proposed is viewed as being consistent with other examples of infill residential development which have long provided for much-needed housing in the area.”

It couldn’t be plainer.

See also:

Plans approved for former Joli Couture to be a ‘drinking establishment’

Covert drones may be flown by Wealden District Council

Uckfield bus services under threat

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