Wealden District Council have been defending their Local Plan in the High Court against a group of landowners who want more houses to be built.
The planning document determines the scale and location of housing and other development in the district until 2027.
A controversial rule, which currently restricts development within 7km of the Ashdown Forest, has been criticised by local businesses for damaging the local economy.
To protect the rare heathland, on the advice of experts including Natural England, Wealden District Council proposed a special protection area around the forest as part of their Local Plan, and this was endorsed by the Planning Inspector.
Now a group of landowners, known as the Ashdown Forest Economic Development partnership, registered at the Estate Office at Eridge Park, have challenged the Core Strategy at the High Court. David Elvin QC argued in the High Court last week, that the housing target of 9,440 is too low and the Council is being overly cautious in its protection of the environment.
Councillor Ann Newton, Cabinet member for Planning & Development said:
Throughout the Local Plan process we have been at pains to balance the need for sustainable new housing and, with it, continued economic growth, with the need to protect Wealden’s outstanding natural heritage, including Ashdown Forest and Pevensey Levels.
The Judicial Review took place in the High Court on 4 and 5 February. It was brought by the Ashdown Forest Economic Development partnership which is a group of owners of rural estates including the Nevill Estate Company Ltd, Baycliffe Limited, the 9th Earl De La Warr 1963 Discretionary Settlement Trust and Birchgrove House Estate Limited. The action was defended by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Wealden District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority. The outcome is expected to be known in a few months’ time.