The preliminary consultation about the Local Plan, reported last week on CrowboroughLife, begins on Monday.
Launching the consultation, Cabinet member for Planning and Development, Councillor Ann Newton, said:
This consultation is about much more than how many houses we should build and where they should go.
We are committed to making Wealden carbon neutral by 2050, if not sooner. As nearly half our CO2 emissions come from transport, the future will have to embrace a major shift towards sustainable transport including electric vehicles.
Being able to afford a roof over your head is another major issue. Average house prices in Wealden have increased by 17% since 2015. This is now 11.5 times the average working person’s income for the District. Although last year 273 affordable homes were built, including 61 by Wealden District Council, these still only represent 26% of all the new homes built in Wealden.
I hear people say that we are concreting over Wealden. This is not the case. Whilst we are required to deliver a large number of new homes, we are one of the largest districts in the South East. Less than 4% of Wealden’s area is currently developed. We do not yet know what our housing target for the future will be.
We are working with Government to ensure that our requirement serves the needs of our communities, and that growth can be accommodated bearing in mind the constraints on development in Wealden.
Despite our best efforts, development has failed to keep pace with our housing targets in the past. It means we have only met 87% of the Government’s Housing Delivery Test. This allows developers too much freedom to oppose our planning decisions on appeal until we get a new plan.
The new Wealden Local Plan should be adopted by the end of 2023, providing a framework for the next 15-20 years. We expect changes in national planning policy during this time, and we will ensure our new plan implements these. But we also want to hear your views about what matters to you.
One of Wealden’s greatest assets is its natural environment. We want to protect our landscapes and enhance existing biodiversity through the creation of green spaces, new water resources and establishing a green infrastructure network. This will benefit both residents and wildlife.
The Local Plan will enable us to bring forward other infrastructure improvements including transport, schools and health. We will continue to work with partners to seek wider funding opportunities to deliver the strategic highway improvements which will be necessary as the District grows.
These are decisions about where you live, work, shop and spend leisure time. We have an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we would like our District to be.
Do you think new development should be focussed on existing sustainable settlements? Or shared between existing sustainable settlements and larger villages, or more widely across the whole District? Alternatively, we could look at new settlements of up to 5 000 homes. We want to hear from you.
Wealden’s Local Plan Direction of Travel Consultation will run from Monday 23rd November until Monday 18th January. You can take part in the consultation online from Monday on Wealden District Council’s website.
The events of the past year will also make us think about how we design for the future, taking account of the expected need for office space, tourist accommodation and changing shopping habits.
The District Council have said they will be working closely throughout the Local Plan process with Town and Parish Councils, neighbouring local authorities and other partners, organisations and stakeholders.
These are the themes outlined in the Local Plan Direction of Travel Consultation:
- Tackling climate change, achieving carbon zero outputs and improving air quality.
- Ensure that growth and change is supported by infrastructure delivery to meet the needs of our communities.
- Delivering the right type of homes, in the right location and to a high standard to meet local need.
- Supporting local businesses, increasing jobs and ensure a thriving, diverse and a locally sustainable economy.
- Improving our existing tourism offer and increasing visitor spend.
- Supporting and regenerating our town and local centres by attracting the right investment and creating vibrant places that provide for our community’s needs.
- Protecting and enhancing our natural environment and increase biodiversity and the quality of our green and blue spaces.
- Protecting our high quality landscapes, our heritage and cultural assets.
- Delivering high quality places through design, accounting for local character and distinctiveness.
- Helping our communities to thrive, living safe, inclusive and healthy lives.