A new wave of housebuilding could be coming to Uckfield.
Developers are likely to be considering land around the town after Wealden District Council’s Local Plan was rejected.
It could mean the reappearance of housebuilding sites which have been rejected in the past, including Downlands Farm, Bird-in-Eye and the Sussex Horse Rescue land, off Hempstead Lane.
It is quite likely housebuilders are also considering other sites in and around the town.
Former deputy town mayor, Cllr Duncan Bennett, has criticised the district council for not appealing the planning inspector’s decision to throw out the plan.
The planning inspector who examined Wealden’s draft Local Plan concluded the district council had placed too great an emphasis on protecting the environment and needed to do more to build new houses.
The draft plan was also thrown out because Wealden failed one of the duties for legal compliance, that of the Duty to Co-operate with other councils.
CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) Sussex has also deplored the council’s decision not to appeal the inspector’s verdict.
A Facebook post said: “Rest assured that CPRE Sussex WILL be challenging both Inspector’s ruling…and the council’s compliance.”
Fight Inspector’s decision
Cllr Bennett expressed dismay that Wealden did not intend to fight the Inspector’s decision when he spoke at Monday night’s (January 20) full meeting of Uckfield Town Council.
“I think I speak for an awful lot of people who are rather disappointed at that.
“I think there should be some challenge, rather than not.”
He said Sevenoaks council was challenging a similar rejection of its plan, adding:
‘Bit of a mystery’
“I am a little bit disappointed that Wealden have taken a decision not to challenge before putting it to the relevant councillors.”
Cllr Gary Johnson, who sits on both the town council and Wealden council – and was elected to both councils for the first time last May – told the meeting the Local Plan process had been going on for five years but had been rejected after the examination in public.
“It is a bit of a mystery to me how we [Wealden] managed to get to that position.
“There are lots of meetings going on at the moment.
“It has been decided that it is best to change a substantial amount of the plan and possibly some of the people who are presenting that plan, so there will be changes.”
Cllr Johnson said putting a new Local Plan forward would take about two years.
“I feel that there will be more pressure on Uckfield to build more houses in addition to Mallards [119 homes] and the 1,000 at Ridgewood.”
Cllr Johnson had been at meetings and said a comment had been made that “there’s a lot on the shelf for Uckfield which is going to reappear”.
He said he was a member of the Wealden planning north committee (which covers Uckfield) and said it would be “business as normal”.
“Anything that we consider is not appropriate and not technically correct, will be rejected,” he said.
Background on previous housebuilding planning applications
The 1,000 homes under construction on what was Ridgewood Farm were allocated under a previous Local Plan, which is in operation.
The first phase of the Ridgewood Farm development is now under way with people occupying a number of homes on the new estate.
Under the new draft Plan, which has been rejected by the Inspector, there was no major new housebuilding planned for Uckfield.
In previous “bids” for development land, sites at Bird-in-Eye, Sussex Horse Rescue and Downlands Farm were put forward.
Downlands Farm sought planning permission in 2006 for 750 new homes but the application was refused and then turned down on appeal.
The site runs from near Lake Wood to Budlett’s.
Opponents of the plan majored on the ecological value of the site.
Two sites were considered for Bird-in-Eye, which are within Framfield parish, but also were refused at a similar time.
A major part of the opposition to these sites was the access to Uckfield town centre through the traffic-choked Framfield Road.
Plans for the Sussex Horse Rescue were floated in the early part of the last decade. The horse rescue operation’s closure was announced last November.
Sevenoaks District Council vows not to withdraw Local Plan (external link)
Find local businesses in our Uckfield Directory