Guidance for Uckfield developers on Ashdown Forest and planning

Developers in the Uckfield district have been given guidance on how new business schemes might win approval and still protect the Ashdown Forest.

Virtually all new projects within 7km of the Ashdown Forest have gone into the deep freezer following the adoption of the council’s core strategy local plan.

The decision has been criticised by business leaders.

The council said it was keen to support small-scale businesses and local community projects and was prepared to work “positively” with applicants.

However, it pointed out proposals which could not pass environmental tests would not be compliant with the core strategy and habitats regulations and would be unsuccessful.

“When proposals are put forward that cannot show an overall neutral or reduced impact from nitrogen deposition, they will fail this test,” the council said.

Wealden has issued a “guidance note” for those applying for planning permission for small-scale business developments which could generate traffic movements on roads which pass through the Ashdown Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC)/Special Protection Area (SPA).

“These applications will typically not be captured by other council planning policies and may include small businesses, small tourism proposals and community projects,” the note says. It is not “formal planning guidance”.

Consultants Mott MacDonald have produced the report which illustrates “good practice” that applicants could take to show how their proposals will manage traffic generation.

Five case studies are provided to illustrate the range of measures that can be introduced in order to promote sustainable travel and reduce the effects of traffic generated by a smaller development.

The report says: “Finding case studies from such smaller developments has been limited. As a result, case studies have been taken from slightly larger developments. As such, they represent a wide range of the initiatives that can be applied to smaller developments and have been selected for their relevance to the range of issues that smaller developments within the Ashdown Forest SAC 7km ‘buffer zone’ may experience.

“While some finance intensive measures may not be scalable to smaller developments, the majority of measures can be scaled effectively. The measures most appropriate may depend upon the size of the development and should be applied based on the characteristics of each individual site.”

Case studies include a business in Wales employing 324 people, another near Slough, Berkshire, employing 850 staff and a company outside Edinburgh with 1,500 on-site staff.

The small business is a theoretical case study based on a six-room B and B on the edge of a national park.

The Mott MacDonald report summarises “sustainable travel measures” and includes public transport discounts for staff and visitors, interest-free season ticket loans and travel information online and in leaflets.

Walking can be promoted by companies providing lockers and showers and drying/changing facilities.

Other ideas include car sharing, promoting cycling and personalised journey planners and reducing the need to travel through tele and video conferencing.

More information is on the Wealden District Council website

HOUSING: New residential developments are dealt with separately. Proposals outside those in the core strategy will need to mitigate their impact through SANGS (Suitable Areas of Natural Green Spaces).

The council is discussing with local landowners which areas could be declared SANGS.

*Mott MacDonald, an employee-owned management, engineering and development consultancy, carried out the work into finding whether there was a business case to re-open the Uckfield to Lewes railway line. It reported in July 2008. Studies at the time concluded it was technically feasible to reinstate the route but there was no business case.

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