Signatures are being collected on a petition to stop development of 550 homes on Downlands Farm, Uckfield.
Developers are awaiting a screening opinion from Wealden Council for land on both sides of the A22 Uckfield by-pass.
It includes 167 acres to the east, between Snatts Road and the A22 by-pass described as site area A, and 33 acres to the west described as site area B.
Read more in another Uckfield News story: Proposals for 550 new homes in Uckfield.
So far 1,450 people have signed a petition to stop the development. It was set up by Mat Mitchell who hopes at least 1,500 will be collected.
He has also set up a Save Downlands Farm Facebook page where members noted the presence of a digger earlier this month and tests being done in each field.
A previous planning application for 750 homes at Downlands Farm was refused by the district council and upheld after an appeal in 2009.
Mat shares, on the Save Downlands Farm Facebook page, information from Downlands Action Group, which was set up to fight the previous application, saying the weight of evidence on which the inspector’s decision was based was overwhelming, particularly in respect of landscape, ecology, existing development boundaries, impact on Uckfield infrastructure, transport and sustainability.
At the time it was thought that made a further application of any sort or scale unlikely but now, once again, “the spectre of a new planning application to develop on Downlands Farm looms darkly over our community like an uninvited and unwelcome guest”.
The Downlands Action Group adds: “The previous application absorbed thousands of hours of labour by councillors, council officers, and legal and planning consultants in examining and successfully opposing it.
“This should not have to happen again, as the issue has been thoroughly examined and rejected in the past, and there are far better things on which to spend our taxes.
“Additionally a large number of volunteers gave much of their free time over a 30-month period.”
It continues: “I have always felt that this planning proposal has been submitted solely because a deceased property speculator, Clarence Preston, willed that he might wield, for reasons best known to himself, some sort of posthumous influence over the community of Uckfield.
“To fulfil the terms of the will his trustees and associates have been obliged to resubmit a proposal for development on Downlands Farm in the face of all previous and forensically examined evidence.
“It is wrong that monies should be paid to a variety of charities, solely as a reward for the agreement of planning permission for industrial or residential development.
“If he had been truly altruistic he would have willed the one direct to the charities on the sale of his farm.”
The group asks that individual objections made to development proposals should bear in mind major reasons given by the planning inspector when rejecting the first application.
It says little has changed with regard to Downlands Farm since then “other than the fact that devoid of housing, and allowed to evolve naturally, it will have increased in its ecological complexity and richness”.
But Covid 19 had severely restricted attendance at public meetings and the ability to collect in person signatures on petitions both of which were used to advantage previously.
The group intends to revise its approach with details shared in due course.
Efforts to prevent development on Downlands Farm are supported by ecologist Martyn Stenning who says “Downlands Farm and Lake Wood is a remarkable area of Sussex Downland on the High Weald with a phenomenally high biodiversity making it eligible for SSSI status on herpetological criteria alone with all British species of reptile and amphibians recorded there, but also supporting at least 70 species of birds including some that stop over on migration, plus mammals such as dormice, yellow-necked mice, fallow deer, roe deer, badgers, foxes, several species of bat and three primeval ghyll valleys and ancient woodland, organically farmed hay fields and views over the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and South Downs National Park.”