Uckfield fears new big housing estate plans

Uckfield is braced for two more planning applications for large housing estates.

It seems to be all but a matter of time before the proposals are made public.

Last month, a scheme for 90 homes off Eastbourne Road resurfaced.

It had previously been refused.

Two other schemes which have received a ‘No’ in the past are now thought likely to reappear.

Part of the Bird in Eye north site which was refused planning permission for housing in 2009 but could now re-emerge after Wealden’s Local Plan failed

They are Downlands Farm, between Snatts Road and the Uckfield by-pass, and Bird-in-Eye (north and south), which is off Framfield Road in Framfield.

Both were refused by Wealden District Council, a decision upheld after an appeal in 2009.

When they were last on the table, Downlands Farm proposed about 750 homes, Bird-in-Eye North 300 and Bird-in-Eye South nearly 200.

Waiting in the wings

This would add 1,250 new homes to Uckfield, if the plans come back in much the same way as before AND receive permission.

Add to this, a potential 90 new homes off Eastbourne Road, the 1,000 homes being built at Ridgewood Farm and the 119 which have permission off Mallard Drive, on the Harlands Estate, and the total could come to 2,500 new homes.

Of course, these totals depend on the planning applications coming in and being determined in favour of the developers.

At present it is estimated that Uckfield has a population of around 15,500 to 16,000 with 6,000 to 6,500 homes.

Why is there now so much talk of so much new housing?

The town – and elsewhere in the district – is in the firing line after Wealden Council’s Local Plan was rejected.

The planning inspector who conducted an “examination in public” of the council’s proposals found two major problems:

  1. A failure to co-operate with neighbouring authorities; and
  2. The council had placed too great an emphasis on protecting the environment; particularly the Ashdown Forest, and must build more houses.

See our previous reports here and here

It has left Wealden vulnerable to housing applications, especially those which were turned down in the past on environmental grounds affecting the Ashdown Forest.

Another problem is that Wealden council does not have a five-year land supply for housing, a factor developers can use as a reason for gaining planning permission.

Eastbourne Road

This website reported in the middle of last month that proposals for up to 90 homes on land off Eastbourne Road had resurfaced.

Gladman Developments is seeking an environmental impact assessment screening opinion from Wealden District Council.

A planning application for the site was refused in 2016.

One of the grounds was that the development proposal, “alone and in combination with other proposals”, would have an adverse effect on the integrity of the Ashdown Forest.

Downlands Farm

In 2006 there was a major plan for 750 homes, employment space, neighbourhood centres with primary school, community hall, small shops and a managed country park at Downlands Farm, Uckfield.

A view across part of the Downlands Farm site

Access would have been from the A22 Black Down roundabout.

The application was refused  – and on appeal – for a number of reasons, including that the site would not be “particularly accessible” and exhibited signs of high car dependency.

Locally, there was a strong ‘stop Downlands’ campaign, based largely on environmental issues.

The site faces the Uckfield by-pass and runs from the boundary of Lake Wood in an irregular shape towards Budlett’s.

Bird-in-Eye

At the same time as the Downlands Farm applications, two sites off Framfield Road were proposed:

  • Bird-in-Eye North (300 homes); and
  • Bird-in-Eye South (197 homes).

They too were refused and on appeal.

Locally, people said at the time Framfield Road was too crowded with parked vehicles to take extra traffic. Since then, more cars are parked along the road on a regular basis with many residents of New Town hunting for spaces in the evenings.

Commentary from Campaign to Protect Rural England at the time of the refusals (2009).

Sussex Horse Rescue

During the same period, land at the Sussex Horse Rescue off Hempstead Lane was also put forward as a potential site for housing.

Again this was turned down.

The land is for sale, as we reported this week, with agents’ particulars noting the site is not allocated for housing under any local authority plan.

Uckfield Town Council

Cllr Helen Firth, who is a town and district councillor, gave an update on what was happening at Wealden District Council when Uckfield Town Council met on Monday (March 2).

She said Uckfield had been given a problem when the Local Plan was thrown out.

She had heard of three applications in the pipeline.

Cllr Helen Firth

“We are looking at a lot of houses.

“We need to be more aware of what we need to do to try and put a stop.

“To be honest, I preferred Downlands Farm right from the word go.

“I would rather that one than Ridgewood [the 1,000 homes scheme now under construction].

“There would have been a park as well for local people. There would have been no impact on the town, as such.

“That was one of the best options.

Working farm

“I would never have preferred it going to Ridgewood which was a working farm.

“I think all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that we can get some sense into the whole situation as far as these developments are concerned.

“Uckfield can’t take any more. We are bursting now.”

What’s happening now?

The development of 1,000 new homes at Ridgewood Farm is under way.

The first homes have been built and some occupied.

A Royal Mail delivery to new homes at Ridgewood Place with construction in the background

A Royal Mail delivery to one of the new occupiers of Ridgewood Place while housebuilding continues at the end of the road. File photograph.

Access points for this stage of the development are from Lewes Road.

Further access points will be from the Uckfield by-pass with a new roundabout planned.

Nearly 120 new homes are to be built off Mallard Drive, Harlands Estate, Ridgewood. The scheme controversially gained planning permission just before Christmas.

See also:

‘Stop doing Ridgewood traffic surveys during half-term’

Bluebell Railway prepares for 60th anniversary event

Rowland Gorringe boosts Uckfield of Trees campaign

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