Retail policies for Uckfield are being reviewed as a new Local Plan is prepared for Wealden.
Options for additional retail/town centre development are appraised in an issues, options and recommendations document.
The preferred option remains, as included in the current core development strategy, to provide additional floor space in the town centre to the west of the High Street, north of Bell Lane, east of Belmont Road, Luxford Field and car parking area.
Other options considered and, so far, set aside for a variety of reasons, including flood risk, are Bell Lane south, High Street north, High Street south and south of Uckfield Railway Station.
The new Local Plan will guide development until 2037 and people are encouraged to take part in a consultation which will get under way next month on the issues, options and recommendations being considered.
The Local Plan will look at:
- The homes and jobs needed in Wealden,
- Retail, leisure and other commercial development;
- Infrastructure – transport, telecommunications, water supply, flood risk, coastal change management, and energy;
- The provision of health, security, schools, community and cultural infrastructure and other local facilities;
- Climate change mitigation and adaptation, conservation and enhancement of the natural and historic environment, including landscape.
Opportunity for shops to front Luxford Field
In relation to retail provision in Uckfield the question being asked is:
“Do you agree or disagree with the preferred option for testing for the allocation of additional retail provision in Uckfield Town Centre?”
The council says Bell Lane north and Luxford area provides considerable space and scope for the a range of additional retail floor space in close proximity to the High Street and public transport interchanges.
“There is also an opportunity to create shop frontages onto Luxford Field making better use of this community asset, and the creation of linkages to effect a circuit from the new development to the existing town centre retail and facilities.”
The issues, options and recommendations document continues: “Given the land take within this sector, known land availability and the possible need to accommodate existing uses that may be displaced within any redevelopment it is considered this sector provides scope to accommodate a considerable proportion, if not all, of the additional floor space requirements from the Wealden Core Strategy local Plan and additional floor space that may be required through the new Local Plan.”
Advantages listed from developing the Bell Lane north and Luxford area are listed as:
- Allows additional development to support growth within the town centre area (as proposed in the Local Plan) in accordance with National Planning Policy Framework
- Adjacent to the existing High Street with the potential to create better linkages and circular routes
- Adjacent to rail and bus interchanges
- Will allow opportunities for a range of retail units and a different type of retail outlet to be provided
- Will allow opportunities to create frontages onto Luxford Field, making better use of this asset
- May enable some relocation of existing uses and development of speciality shopping along the High Street.
Disadvantages are seen as:
- May skew the focus of the town centre away from the High Street area
- Will change the linear character of Uckfield town centre
- Delivery will be dependant upon good working relationship with landowners and town centre traders
- May have adverse impacts upon secondary frontage areas of the High Street by drawing trade away from these areas.
The issues, options and recommendations document says the aim is to enhance the role of Uckfield as a district centre to serve its local community and surrounding areas, support employment growth by contributing to an increase in the range of local job opportunities and to boost the attractiveness and vibrancy of Uckfield’s town centre through sensitive redevelopment and expansion.
The town centre is described as being well served by car parks including Luxford Field, two small car parks at Regency Close, car parking at both Tesco’s and Waitrose and parking provision to the west of Bell Walk.
The town is said to fare well against national averages for town centres, particularly in relation to retail comparison goods (comprising mainly independent shops in Uckfield) and in relation to the number of vacant units.
“It performs less well in relation to the number of convenience retail outlets. However it should be noted that this analysis does not take into account the amount of floor space that may be provided for each category.”
Analysis also suggests that Uckfield has a potential niche market in relation to independent comparison goods.
Wealden Council says the issue to be addressed in the new Local Plan is the need to ensure that the additional floor space provided to support growth enhances the vitality and viability of Uckfield Town Centre and supports the retention of specialist markets as part of the unique qualities and characteristics of the retail offer in Uckfield.
The complete Local Plan: Issues, Options and Recommendations can be seen here
It will be considered by the council’s local development framework sub-committee on September 25.
Public consultation on the document is due to begin on October 19 and exhibitions are planned across the district so that people can ask questions of planning officers and councillors, and provide feedback.
The consultation closes on Monday, November 30.
An exhibition is due to be held at Uckfield Civic Centre on Tuesday, October 27, from 2-7pm.
Other exhibition venues and dates which will cover the same material include:
- Crowborough Community Centre: Thursday, October 22, 1.30-6.30pm
- Hailsham Civic Community Hall: Saturday, October 31, 10am-2pm
- Wadhurst, Uplands Community Centre, Tuesday, November 3, 2-7pm
- Heathfield Youth Centre, Saturday, November 7, 10am-2pm
- Hailsham Civic Community Hall, Friday, November 13, 2-8pm
- Polegate Community Centre, Saturday, November 14, 10am-2pm.