Planners should grasp the chance to create more jobs when they redraw the Wealden Local Plan, business leaders say.
Insufficient land for business was included in the now rejected draft, says Uckfield Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber says it is willing to work with Wealden District Council and other partners to formulate a new plan which provides more jobs and employment opportunities.
Chris Lawson, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said members welcomed the opportunity provided by the rejection of the draft plan.
“The Chamber’s view was that the Local Plan was too focused on housebuilding in South Wealden.
“There was little or no consideration for new business space in North Wealden, particularly in Uckfield and Crowborough,” he said.
The only new site in Uckfield was part of the Ridgewood Farm development which already has planning consent.
Ridgewood Farm business site
The developers are not obliged, under the Section 106 legal agreement, to provide new business space until the 750th house is completed, which could be many years from now.
Mr Lawson said: “The Inspector’s decision gives Wealden District Council the opportunity to rethink its local plan as it will have to include more housing.
“Hopefully greater emphasis can be put on providing more employment land, particularly in North Wealden, to provide jobs for those extra houses.
Ashdown Business Park jobs
The new Ashdown Business Park at Maresfield has proved very successful with only one plot remaining.
This has enabled five local businesses to expand into new headquarters buildings and four new businesses from outside Wealden to establish facilities.
Consideration needs to be given as to where the next business park can be developed to provide jobs in Wealden, the Chamber said.
“To preserve the Ashdown Forest, jobs and places to work need to be in Wealden to stop people travelling across the Forest to Gatwick and Crawley.
“To focus exclusively on South Wealden is wrong.
“Most businesses in North Wealden are not going to travel south to Hailsham.
“The A22 is already far too congested and most businesses want better access to the M23/M25 network, so going south is not an option,” he said.
The Chamber for some time has believed Wealden District Council’s views on nitrogen in the Ashdown Forest to be flawed.
The Inspector’s report said the council’s approach was “not justified on any reasonable assessment of the evidence”.
The Chamber said Wealden had chosen not to follow Natural England’s advice in this regard.
“Whilst the Council may be entitled to take a different view from the advice of a nationally important body and an acknowledged expert on the subject, it needs to support its position with adequate evidence.
‘Lacking in credibility’
“It did not do so but took a position which was, in scientific terms, lacking in credibility,” Mr Lawson said.
Uckfield Chamber of Commerce would work with the council and others to develop a plan which would more jobs and employment opportunities, particularly in North Wealden but having regard to preserving the Ashdown Forest.
“A more flexible attitude needs to be adopted,” Mr Lawson said.
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.