Objections to the establishment of a solar electric forecourt on the outskirts of Uckfield have been repeated by town councillors.
The scheme was back before the council’s plans committee last night (December 14) just days before a decision is due to be made on the application by Wealden District Council.
The town council had previously objected to the scheme and councillors reiterated their views when asked to comment on an amendment to have a pedestrian/cycle access to the site off the Copwood roundabout on the Uckfield by-pass.
The town councillors spoke in favour of the move to greener forms of transport, generally liked the concept of a solar electric forecourt but said the location was wrong.
Cllr Duncan Bennett there were other potential sites in the area adding:
“We should welcome this sort of development in our area but this is simply the wrong place,”
“We want them to build it, but just not there.”
Cllr Chris Macve said charge points for electric vehicles were already covered on the A22 and A26 corridor within existing facilities at the Shell garage at the Blackdown roundabout and the Costa Coffee (at the Ashdown Business Park).
Cllr Spike Mayhew said charging points for Uckfield needed to be in town centre car parks to bring people into the town if they need to charge their car.
Speaking specifically about the amendment to the plan for pedestrian access, Cllr Chris Macve said it was unreasonable to expect people to cross the road at that point and would be”extremely dangerous”.
Cllr Bennett added: “The thought that anyone might stop there and venture in to see the wonders of Uckfield town centre, you can forget it. It won’t happen. It is on the wrong side of the road.
The plan goes before Wealden District councils planning committee north on Thursday and has been recommended for approval by officers. See our report here.
More detail on Uckfield Town Council’s original objection to the plan for a solar electric forecourt
When the plans committee discussed the application previously, members agreed to object to the scheme, saying:
Uckfield Town Council supports the promotion of green energy and renewable options, but the application to build a solar electric forecourt adjacent to the A22, is not supported in this location (land south of Copwood Farm, Rocks Road).
Outward creep of development
Outside development boundary. The site is outside of Uckfield’s development boundary (the A22 Uckfield by-pass being the natural boundary line) and sets a dangerous precedent for the future outward creep of development.
It is also considered overdevelopment of the site and detrimental to the rural area.
This matter was previously raised previously in regards to Horsted Green Park, and noted in letters by Little Horsted Parish Council which should be re-reviewed and taken into account with this application.
Agricultural land: As far as we understand, this land is still being used for agricultural purposes.
Renewable energy: The charging points provided would not benefit the residents of Uckfield due to it being so close to their homes, only vehicles travelling along the A22, so we are unable to see the benefit of these facilities for Uckfield.
Impact of retail on town centre: By providing a retail offer out of town (on the town’s boundary) it could impact the town’s existing retail and hospitality trade, and risk moving custom away from the High Street and Bellbrook Business park, which is particular concern in these current times.
Conclusion: The town council is fully aware that PV [photovoltaic] panels are being installed across the country on agricultural land and they still enable grazing/crops to continue through this diversification, but there is no reason why both the PV panels and forecourt facilities have to be on the same site.
There are already concerns regarding traffic congestion and new junctions being added to the A22 between Copwood and Little Horsted roundabouts as a result of new development in Uckfield.
The proposal to build a forecourt, service hub, retail and catering facilities would be better sited near hubs already in existence along the A22 with overnight accommodation and employment space, such as the Ashdown Business Park at Maresfield which has a number of new businesses and a new Premier Inn.