The next stage of a major housing development in Crowborough has been given the go ahead by Wealden planners.
Last Thursday (13th October), Wealden District Council’s Planning Committee North approved a reserved matters application connected to plans to build up to 100 houses on land between Walshes Road and Luxford Road in Crowborough.
The scheme, which had already been granted outline planning permission, was previously considered by the Committee in August. At that meeting, Councillors opted to defer their decision, due to efforts to receive further information from Southern Water following a Full Council motion.
While the Committee did receive some further information from the water company between the two meetings, several members were unhappy with its quality and argued the scheme should be deferred again so that even more details could be sought.
Proposing the deferral, Cllr Gareth Owen-Williams (Crowborough Jarvis Brook, Liberal Democrat) said:
It would be lovely to believe that they will always tell us the truth, but we want more than that. My understanding was that this motion was so that we said ‘don’t just say you can do it, how can you do it’.
So I’m wondering what was the point of the motion, what was the point of the deferrals we’ve done since then, if we’ve really not got any more detailed information. I would like to see the working. I would like to see what capacity they’ve got, all the other developments in the area, to look at the same figures they’re looking in.
It is not commercially sensitive, surely, to show us what their responsibilities are and how they are dealing with them, because they are a public service.Cllr Owen-Williams
However, the Committee was warned the Council would be on shaky ground withholding consent on those grounds alone. This is because the Committee would be going beyond its remit in disputing evidence from Southern Water as a statutory undertaker.
This, officers said, had been reflected in recent planning appeals where inspectors had been unconvinced by arguments based on sewerage concerns and had even found the Council to be acting unreasonably.
This warning was reinforced by Committee Chairman Johanna Howell (Frant & Wadhurst, Conservative), who said:
If we are deemed to be unreasonable by an inspector for the decisions that we make, because we have gone beyond our remit, then we have liability as a Committee. It is our responsibility.
It is our responsibility to do the best that we can. We are doing the best within our remit, our abilities. But we also have to be mindful that if we are deemed to be unreasonable because we have stepped beyond that, we will have costs put against us and as you know they are significant.Cllr Howell
Other details of the scheme did not seem to prompt concerns among Councillors.
The scheme itself had been recommended for approval by officers as long as some further conditions were added those already agreed at the outline stage.
These additional conditions include glazing for windows that overlook adjoining gardens and protections for trees and hedgerows included within the development.
Although broadly similar to the indicative plans previously submitted, the final design now also includes a landscape buffer between the new homes and existing properties in Walshes Road.
Following further debate this recommendation was approved eight votes to four.
For further information on the proposals see application reference WD/2021/2739/MRM on the Wealden District Council website.