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No Confidence in Wealden planners

Councillors on Wealden District Council are being told mounting a legal fight against a planning inspector’s decision to reject their Local Plan would have limited chances of success.

The Local Plan is prepared by a planning authority and sets out the priorities for future development. It covers both housing and commercial property, including transport infrastructure, along with protection for the local environment.

The independent planning inspector appointed by the Government, came to the conclusion that Wealden District Council failed in its legal duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities and their approach to model air quality impacts on the Ashdown Forest lacked scientific credibility.

A report going to Wealden’s Cabinet next week (Wednesday 12th) states that:

…legal advice is that case law shows it is very difficult to succeed in a challenge on Duty to Co-operate grounds as an Inspector has a wide discretion to make a judgement.

The cost and length of time involved in any such challenge would be considerable. It would prolong a period of uncertainty which would impact on the consideration of planning applications.

The Portfolio Holder Councillor Ann Newton, is recommending that the failed Local Plan is withdrawn and the Council make a new one.

The report argues that this will have the advantage of allowing the Council to move on rapidly, especially if they adopt the model of estimating emissions from vehicle exhausts that Natural England has been urging them to follow.

Last week Crowborough Town Councillors on the Planning and Development Committee looked at the ramifications of withdrawing the Local Plan. The Councillor’s noted that that the rejection of Wealden’s Local Plan would not be good for Crowborough.

They understood Wealden will need to take 400 of Eastbourne’s unmet housing allocation, they also believed that Wealden will need to take the unmet allocation for Tunbridge Wells, but the figure is as yet unknown.

In light of the Wealden’s Local Plan being declared “unsound”, a “vote of no confidence” in the Portfolio Holder and Wealden District Council’s Planning Department was taken. By a five to two majority the motion was carried.

In favour: Cllrs Peter Bucklitsch (Ind), Geoffrey Higginson (Ind), Alan Penney (Ind), Greg Rose (Ind), Colin Stocks (Green).

Against: Cllrs Martin Garrett (Ind) and Richard Jury (Cons).

Cllr Ron Reed (Cons) abstained.

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