Now is your chance to have a say on the future of development in Wealden.
The district council launched a consultation on Monday to find out what residents and businesses would like to see in a new Local Plan. You will be required to log in on the website before providing a response.
For example, you can say whether new development should be focussed on existing sustainable settlements, shared between existing sustainable settlements and larger villages, or more widely across the whole district.
Alternatively the district could look at new settlements of up to 5,000 homes.
The district council’s cabinet member for planning and development Cllr Ann Newton says, in a press release, that it is not true to say Wealden is being concreted over.
She says it is one of the largest districts in the South East and less than 4% of its area is currently developed.
But, she adds, the district is required to deliver “a large number” of new homes, though how many is not yet known.
Cllr Newton says: “One of Wealden’s greatest assets is its natural environment. We want to protect our landscapes and enhance existing biodiversity through the creation of green spaces, new water resources and establishing a green infrastructure network. This will benefit both residents and wildlife.
“The Local Plan will enable us to bring forward other infrastructure improvements including transport, schools and health. We will continue to work with partners to seek wider funding opportunities to deliver the strategic highway improvements which will be necessary as the district grows.
“These are decisions about where you live, work, shop and spend leisure time. We have an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we would like our district to be.”
Cllr Newton adds that the consultation is about much more than how many houses should be built and where they should go. It will also cover how the district should respond to global issues, such as climate change.
She says: “We are committed to making Wealden carbon neutral by 2050, if not sooner. As nearly half our CO2 emissions come from transport, the future will have to embrace a major shift towards sustainable transport including electric vehicles.
“Being able to afford a roof over your head is another major issue. Average house prices in Wealden have increased by 17% since 2015. This is now 11.5 times the average working person’s income for the district.
“Although last year 273 affordable homes were built, including 61 by Wealden District Council, these still only represent 26% of all the new homes built in Wealden.
Cllr Newton says the council is working with the Government to ensure the needs of communities are served, and that growth can be accommodated bearing in mind constraints in the district.
She adds: “Despite our best efforts development has failed to keep pace with our housing targets in the past.
“It means we have only met 87% of the Government’s Housing Delivery Test. This allows developers too much freedom to oppose our planning decisions on appeal until we get a new plan.
Cllr Newton said the events of the past year will also make the council think about how it designs for the future, taking account of the expected need for office space, tourist accommodation and changing shopping habits.
The new Wealden Local plan should be adopted by the end of 2023, providing a framework for the next 15-20 years.
The Local Plan Direction of Travel Consultation will run until Monday, January 18. You can take part online (you will be required to log in) via the Wealden website.
When responding to the consultation, you can provide your own views as to how you would like the council to take forward the various policy options in a new Local Plan.
It will be working closely throughout the local plan process with town and parish councils, neighbouring local authorities and other partners, organisations and stakeholders.
These are the themes outlined in the Local Plan Direction of Travel Consultation:
- Tackling climate change, achieving carbon zero outputs and improving air quality.
- Ensure that growth and change is supported by infrastructure delivery to meet the needs of our communities.
- Delivering the right type of homes, in the right location and to a high standard to meet local need.
- Supporting local businesses, increasing jobs and ensure a thriving, diverse and a locally sustainable economy.
- Improving our existing tourism offer and increasing visitor spend.
- Supporting and regenerating our town and local centres by attracting the right investment and creating vibrant places that provide for our community’s needs.
- Protecting and enhancing our natural environment and increase biodiversity and the quality of our green and blue spaces.
- Protecting our high quality landscapes, our heritage and cultural assets.
- Delivering high quality places through design, accounting for local character and distinctiveness.
- Helping our communities to thrive, living safe, inclusive and healthy lives.
Read more about development in Wealden in other Uckfield News stories: