Visitor surveys have been carried out at six sites in the Uckfield and Crowborough areas which might help get building work re-started in the area around the Ashdown Forest.
New house-building has virtually dried up in Uckfield since the 7km rule was imposed last year to protect the forest.
In broad terms, the 7km rule prevents new development if it is likely to increase the number of people visiting the forest by car, which will increase nitrogen deposits.
Wealden District Council is seeking ways for new developments to mitigate their effect by the provision of what are known as SANGS (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Spaces) which would draw visitors to these sites instead of people going to the forest.
The visitor survey was commissioned by Wealden District Council in order to provide information on the levels and patterns of use on sites and to assess the capacity of them (subject to landowner’s consent) to accommodate any additional recreation pressures arising from otherwise acceptable development (predominantly windfall sites over and above the growth proposed in the Core Strategy).
Of the sites surveyed – which have not been named – there are only two large enough to provide a walk of around 2.3km, the length of walk that might be typical for visitors on a large heathland site such as Ashdown Forest.
One is relatively steep in places and more ‘urban’ in feel than the other. People using this also visit an adjacent area to the east, including Buxted Park.
Another site is managed by the Woodland Trust and already has considerable existing visitor infrastructure, such as marked trails. Parking is limited but if enhanced the capacity of the site could be increased.
The other sites are comparatively small, some with a strong weekend bias in the visitor patterns, with more families and children visiting at the weekend.
Discussions will be needed with landowners about whether they will allow their land to be designated formally as SANGS and to how this can be brought into effect in a legally binding and long-term way.