Wealden District Council has granted outline planning permission to developer Welbeck Strategic Land for a 1,000-home urban extension at the East Sussex country town of Uckfield.
A report to Wealden’s planning committee north says the proposed development is “sustainable” and “no significant or demonstrable harm” arising from it has been identified through an environmental impact assessment.
The 90-hectare site at Ridgewood Farm to the west of the settlement had been identified in the council’s core strategy for residential development and 12,650 square metres of employment floor space.
The scheme includes a new neighbourhood with up to 1,000 homes in a mix of sizes and tenures and nearly 13,500 square metres of employment space.
The affordable housing provision in the scheme has been set at between 15 and 35 per cent but varied according to viability as the development is phased.
Existing farmhouse and brick buildings near the centre of the site would be converted under the plans to provide a local convenience shop, health facilities and a community meeting space. A one-form primary school, with potential to be expanded to two forms, has been proposed immediately to the south of the converted buildings.
The plans also include an area near the A22 for the provision of leisure facilities, with potential for use as a pub or restaurant. In order to mitigate the impact of the proposed development on the Ashdown Forest Special Protection Area, suitable alternative natural green space, in the form of a 29-hectare recreation area, has been proposed to the west of the A22.
As a result of the new development approximately £8m could be paid to the Wealden District Council as New Homes Bonus. This bonus, which will be paid over 6 years from Central Government, is paid to the Local Authority with the recommendation of consulting local people as to how the money should be spent.
East Sussex Highways Authority though, argues that Uckfield town centre is not able to support the scheme and says it would become “unsustainable”.
Their view was that “ the town centre is not able to support the development from a commercial and employment point of view and compromises the sustainability objectives being offered as there would be a shortage of local jobs and the High Street would be less attractive than other accessible commercial centres such as Tunbridge Wells, Lewes, Haywards heath and Brighton.
“The development proposal is therefore looked at in isolation and seemingly turns its back onto the town, and becomes a separate settlement.”
Fifty-two letters of objection were received by Wealden DC from local residents. They included concerns relating to the location of the SANGS (Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space) and its car park, lack of infrastructure to serve the development, unacceptable increase in traffic generated, lack of a dedicated cycleway through the town and inadequate parking provision within the town.
The opening of a 72 acre SANGS as a ‘country park’ at Little Horsted is part of a planning agreement. The amount of SANGS land being offered by Welbeck Strategic Land, who submitted the 1,000 homes plan, is more than that required for their proposal.
And at a planning committee meeting Welbeck project manager Andrew Hodgson said there could be enough provision to enable another 300 to 600 homes, which already have planning permission, to be built.
SANGS are needed to mitigate the effects of development on the Ashdown Forest, a special area of protection.