Plans for a new 1,000 home development at Ridgewood Farm in Uckfield could be submitted to Wealden Council in June or July this year.
Consultations began on Friday about the layout of the new ‘neighbourhood’ as it is described by the owners of the site, Welbeck Land, and master planners John Thompson & Partners.
About 300 people attended an exhibition at Uckfield Civic Centre on Friday and Saturday. Display boards will be available to view at Uckfield Library for two weeks and details are also due to appear on a dedicated website at www.ridgewoodfarm.co.uk.
Townspeople at the exhibition on Saturday seemed shocked at the scale of the development, struggling to take on board the information displayed.
Options for access to the site included a roundabout on the by-pass, a T-junction in Lewes Road, opposite Ridgewood House, and possibly a T-junction leading to a new business park and the existing sewage works from the by-pass.
Afterwards Uckfield town councillor Marion Rowland said: “I was overwhelmed at the amount of people who stopped me at the Ridgewood Farm exhibition who are having major concerns about the development.”
She added: “I have never been in a room with so many angry people before. I did not meet one person who was in favour of supporting the development.”
Marion herself was concerned that it appeared the development would be split, with 200 homes accessed from Lewes Road and the other 800 from the by-pass. Only buses, pedestrians and cycles would be able to move between the two parts.
Some people queried how cars could be stopped from moving between them if buses were able to but Clare San Martin, a partner in John Thompson & Partners said bus gates could be used.
Space was earmarked for a new school and people had difficulty in working out whether that would be accessed from Lewes Road or from the by-pass.
Clare San Martin and Andrew Hodgson, strategic planning manager with Welbeck Land, stressed that the design shown was for consultation purposes and all points raised would be taken into consideration before a planning application was submitted.
Mr Mel Sanders from Forge Close said the development was ‘too big’.
He said: “The plans assume everybody from the development is going to walk or ride a bike but they won’t. They will use cars and the town can’t take it. This is going to kill the town.”
Mr Hodgson from Welbeck Lane said quite a few visitors to the exhibition were supportive of the site, or at least understood the rationale behind it and why it was needed.
But he added that clearly people had got concerns in relation to infrastructure. “This is just the start of the process. We will go away and consider what we can do to improve the situation.”
He said the aim was to positively contribute to the vitality of the town centre and input from traders was “very positive” about this.
Clare San Martin said: “A lot of people have expressed disappointment on the range of shops along the High Street and traders think that more people will bring more spending power into the centre. There will also be contributions to town centre improvements.”
The Ridgewood Farm site is earmarked for1,000 homes in Wealden District Council’s core development strategy.
More pictures below from the consultation exhibition held in Uckfield on Friday and Saturday.