Wealden Council clashes with other authorities over Ashdown Forest

Wealden District Council is clashing with neighbouring local authorities as it strives to protect its position limiting development near the the Ashdown Forest – a Special Area of Conservation.Wealden logo best for widescreen 18-01

Wealden only allows planning applications to go forward within district which can be proved not to result in additional traffic movements across the Ashdown Forest and it wants other authorities to do the same.

It has now apologised for writing letters of objection to planning applications being considered by neighbouring authorities, without contacting their senior officers,  but says it will continue to object to further development proposals which it believes could impact on the Ashdown Forest.

Wealden has raised concerns about Lewes District Joint Core Strategy – which is joint between Lewes District and the South Downs National Park Authority – and submitted responses in relation to the Mid Sussex Local Plan and the Lewes Local Plan.

In addition Wealden is battling with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council which is assessing planning applications close to the Ashdown Forest and which, in Wealden’s view, would result in additional traffic movements across the Forest.

Wealden says it sent out letters to a number of authorities setting out its view that an assessment under Habitats Regulations should be undertaken on specific planning applications where proposed developments might, alone, and in combination with other plans and projects, lead to increased vehicle movements over designated European sites and flagging that Wealden would object to the application if this was not done.

Wealden says in a statement: “Whilst the issue of the protection of the Ashdown Forest has been widely known to neighbour authorities’ planning staff for some time, Wealden recognises that the manner of submitting the letters of objection on planning applications to other authorities without contacting senior officers may have appeared to be unhelpful. Wealden apologises for that.

“However, the letters do deal with the protection of the Ashdown Forest which is a live issue for all the neighbouring authorities, and all authorities have a duty to cooperate.

“Wealden will continue to work with neighbouring authorities directly and through the Ashdown Forest Local Authority Group and promote the sharing of information wherever possible.

“Pending the production of this statement Wealden has paused sending any more letters outlining the need for a screening/appropriate assessment under the Habitats Regulations.

“However, Wealden does need to maintain a consistent approach and therefore, in order to safeguard out position Wealden will continue to object to further development proposals which it believes could impact on the Ashdown Forest.”

Read the full Wealden statement here.

Update on Tuesday, February 6:

Wealden says:

“The latest scientific monitoring of Nitrogen emissions from vehicles travelling around Ashdown Forest shows that critical levels are being exceeded, putting this Special Area of Conservation at risk.

“Increased traffic is no respecter of local government boundaries. All councils have a legal duty, under the Habitat Regulations, to consider the effect traffic from new development could have on Ashdown Forest and we have asked our neighbouring authorities to do this.

“We are aware that this precautionary approach places a burden on our neighbours and we are working with them, through a Statement of Common Ground, to find solutions to bring forward development for the benefit of everyone whilst maintaining our duty and legal obligations to protect Ashdown Forest.”

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