Wealden District Council must lead to take Uckfield development out of the deep freezer

Commentary by Paul Watson

The highly controversial 7km rule to protect the Ashdown Forest has gone through.

Barring some very last-ditch and highly expensive legal action in the High Court the regulation is something business and commerce in Uckfield and the surrounding villages will have to live with.

Information has been publically available for more than two years that protection of the Ashdown Forest would have consequences for those of us living just outside its orders.

For whatever reasons, it is only in the last six months that the full enormity of what the 7km development ban will mean to Uckfield has dawned.

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Now we know, the first task post Christmas is for Wealden District Council, the Uckfield business community and other interested parties to begin working together to ensure future business development is not totally choked.

Range of measures

Cllr Roy Galley, the Wealden District Council cabinet member for development, gave some hope when he said the council was determined that while maintaining legal obligations to protect the Ashdown Forest “local economic and community life should not be stifled”.

He said: “We are confident that, through a range of measures including travel plans, changing working patterns and low emissions technology, solutions can be found to allow necessary and appropriate development to continue within the 7km protection area without damaging Ashdown Forest.

Economic mire

“It will mean applicants will have to approach proposals in a different way but by grasping the importance of this issue early, we are devoting the necessary resources to this work and taking a lead,” he said.

Fine words, of course, butter no parsnips. Uckfield businesses, the town council and, perhaps with the help of the MP, must ensure Wealden does take control and lead us out of a potential economic mire.

Let us see those ideas fleshed out into practical solutions.

Employers need practical advice and examples they can “pick up” with the minimum of fuss and expense to ensure continuing and appropriate economic development.

Wealden’s planners have made all the running on this.

Commuting across the Ashdown Forest

Now it is time for the the council’s economic development (with the planners) to get working and come up some practical steps.

It has been said before but it is worth repeating: If we are going to build 1,000 new homes in Uckfield (and we are), where are the people going to work?

Business and commerce must also grow in the town unless the new residents will all have to commute to find work, with many driving across the Ashdown Forest to the Crawley/Gatwick area.

Read the latest news story here.

Now  for our montly round-up of news from the Uckfield area business scene.

Real Time PAYE nears

There are now fewer than six months until almost all employers and pension providers must report their payroll information to HMRC on or before every payday, says accountants Swindells.

To be able to comply with the new system there are a number of measures that you as a business will need to take.

It is vital that the information you hold on your employees is accurate and up to date for Real Time PAYE to function effectively.

The data held by you will be matched to data held by HMRC, so any discrepancies could be rejected. Before you can start reporting in real time you will need to send HMRC information about every employee that’s worked for you in the current tax year (even if they have already left).

Your information and software will need to be up to date before you can do this.

There will need to be a number of changes, including the way you record working Patterns, the way you report new starters and leavers, the way you report company cars and the way you report at the year-end.

Learning and development

Sussex Enterprise has a new Learning and Development section on its website. It is packed with information about how to make the most of your team and help your budgets stretch further. Go to the Sussex Enterprise website.

Future for farming

The future of farming, fuel and food security and competition on the world stage were the topics on the table at the South of England Farming Conference.

Every seat was taken as farmers, land owners and agriculturists packed the room to listen to a panel of eminent speakers debate the question “Is the 21stcentury British Farmer guaranteed prosperity?”

The panel at the South of England Showground at Ardingly included Professor Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of Bio-geography at the University of London; former Agriculture and Food Minister the Sir Jim Paice MP, and newly-appointed Director General of the National Union of Farmers, Andy Robertson.

‘Energy realism check needed’

Professor Stott stressed: “The farmer has to be at the heart of food and energy security and there are very hard decisions to be taken.”

Mr Robertson argued that prosperity could not be guaranteed but it was reasonable for UK farmers to expect conditions in which they could be prosperous.

A situation where the world needed food security and for its economy to get going should be seen as opportunities.

He agreed that there was the need for a realism check on where we got our energy from, but that the country also needed stability to be able to commit to energy production.

Sir Jim Paice said farmers were not guaranteed prosperity but were guaranteed a good opportunity to be prosperous in the 21st century.

Sir Jim said that the period of time he spent as a government minister in Defra had, he hoped, brought a change to more positive attitudes towards farming and a proactive rather than reactive stance to the industry.

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Pictured (from left): Professor Philip Stott, Andy Robertson, William Goodwin, Simon Baillie-Hamilton, Gordon Sanders, Iain Morris, Matthew Berryman.

Uckfield station car park

The Uckfield Railway Line Parishes Committee has backed efforts to have land at the old railway station site in Uckfield turned into a car park.

The committee, which is made up of representatives from town and parish councils along, and near to, the Uckfield railway line, and user groups, is pressing the Government to transfer the land to Network Rail.

Read more here.

A delegation is going to London to see the Rail Minister on December 13. More details here.

Tax on foreign lorries

Wealden MP Charles Hendry has welcomed the introduction of the HGV Road User Levy.

It will ensure foreign-registered heavy goods vehicles to use the British road system.

Most British lorries have to pay charges or tolls to drive on European roads.

Read more here

‘Scary’ business start-up

The Free Range Pig Company based in Framfield is beginning to reap the benefits of long hours and hard work as interest is pouring in at an amazing rate.

Jay and Sophie Joel sold their home to raise money to buy the land and set up a business to raise totally stress-free pigs.

They started with three piglets and soon found themselves with 100 housed in traditional straw-filled wooden arks, allowed to give birth naturally, with no cages or crates.

They specialise in Tamworth and Berkshire rare breed varieties, both of which are classed as ‘At Risk’ on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s Watchlist.

Jay said: “I slogged in the mud for 15 months building up a herd without producing an ounce of meat and all along I never really knew what my product would be like ….very scary.”

Read more about the business here.

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