Wealden District Council say the recreation area adjacent to 160 houses in Crowborough will “unlock” development in the north of the district.
The decision by the Planning Committee North last week to approve Rydon Homes’ application to build at Walsh Manor Farm will open-up to public access to 70 acres of green space.
As part of Wealden District Council’s planning strategy a Special Protection Area was introduced to restrict development within 7km of the Ashdown Forest. To divert people away from the conservation area, developers have to provide a SANGS, a Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space for residents to use.
The development off Walshes Road will provide the first SANGS in Wealden.
This open access space for walkers and dog owners is intended to take the recreational pressure off Ashdown Forest.
Councillor Ann Newton, Cabinet member for Planning and Development said:
Our first SANGS will provide a safe habitat for local wildlife and greatly add to enjoyment of the countryside for local people.
This contribution of open access countryside is necessary to unlock the development potential in the north of the District. We expect to see further SANGS to ensure carefully planned growth in the north of the District takes place.
The Council say this particular SANGS has the capacity to allow other small scale and strategic developments to go forward. Until now, these have been unable to proceed. These developments will be expected to contribute to the costs of mitigation including the SANGS.
The Council has approved a revolving £5 million infrastructure fund to support the creation of SANGS and, at last week’s Cabinet meeting, also approved funding to support the Conservators of Ashdown Forest. The Council will invest £1 million now and a further £2.5 million from planning agreements to implementing an access management and monitoring strategy.
These will include provision of an additional ranger, support for volunteer dog rangers, monitoring the bird population and providing responsible dog ownership training events.
Two companies Air Quality Consultants and ECUS Environmental Consultants have been appointed to conduct a long term study to investigate impacts of nitrogen from vehicle exhausts and other air pollutants is having on the Ashdown Forest.
Early this year local businesses said the 7km protection zone was stifling the local economy, and they felt the Council was not moving fast enough to find solutions.
In last week’s Cabinet report, Councillors were told as well as the extensive unsuccessful legal challenge to the adopted Core Strategy by a group of landowners, the Council has successfully defended 12 planning appeals relating to the mitigation measures.
Early this month the Court of Appeal gave Ashdown Forest Economic Development LLP permission to appeal on the lawfulness of Wealden’s SANGS policies. In response Wealden issued this statement:
We are pleased that the Court has supported the Council on housing numbers and the need for environmental protection for Ashdown Forest.
Whilst it is disappointing that leave to appeal has been granted, this is on a narrow legal technicality. Wealden District Council will be defending this appeal and the Council continues to struggle to understand the motivation of the wealthy landowners who are pursuing the point at the expense of the Wealden taxpayer.
The need to protect the environment, and Ashdown Forest in particular, is no longer in contention whatever the outcome. There will continue to be an ongoing need to apply the Habitat Regulations.
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