Proposals to bring a solar-powered car charging station to Wealden have been given the go ahead by council planners.
Yesterday (4th March) Wealden District Council’s Planning Committee North approved plans to build a solar farm and electric vehicle (EV) charging facility to the west of the A22 Uckfield bypass.
While approved on a majority vote, the application saw some significant opposition, including from committee members and other councillors present at the meeting.
Among those to raise objections was ward councillor Roy Galley (Con), who said:
As the council’s lead on climate change action I support the principle of this application, but that is very heavily qualified.
The proposed development is outside any development boundary in undeveloped countryside and adversely affects the rural nature of quite a number of our local villages. It will be a carbuncle in the landscape.
The additional, combined pressure on the A22 of this proposal and the Ridgewood development of 1,000 houses will, in my view, be dangerous and unsustainable from a congestion point of view.
Despite technical highways reports I believe the road network will not cope without further significant investment.Cllr Roy Galley
Objections were also raised by Cllr Helen Firth, whose Uckfield New Town ward contained some of the works. She objected on the grounds that it would have an ‘unacceptable impact’ on both Uckfield and the A22. She also argued that it was in an ‘inappropriate place’.
There was initially some confusion over whether Cllr Firth could take part in voting as she was not listed as a ward councillor on the planning papers.
Cllr Firth (who had raised the matter herself) had initially put forward a motion to refuse before officers confirmed that some of the application site fell within her ward. As a result, her motion could not be counted due to Wealden not allowing ward members to take part in voting.
A new motion to refuse the application was put forward by Cllr Keith Obbard (Green) seconded by Cllr Gary Johnson (Con); on the grounds that it fell outside any development boundary as well as its size, scale and impact.
These objections failed to sway everyone on the committee, however.
Indeed, when moving approval, Councillor for Crowborough South West Neil Waller said he could not see the basis for concerns around the location and size. Cllr Waller said:
As to the impact on Uckfield I don’t see how a 160sqm building will decimate Uckfield in quite the way that is being described.
I think most of the people using that will be the people sitting charging their cars. They might sit and do an email, they might use the facilities and they might have a coffee; that’s about it. I can’t see how this is going to have such a detrimental impact on Uckfield.
Importantly, I can’t see any opposition to this application from our statutory consultees, not one, and I feel we would have very limited grounds for refusal on that basis.
Lots of people have talked about highway safety [but East Sussex] Highways don’t object to this. It went for five rounds of consultation with Highways; they have crossed every t and dotted every i on this proposal.Cllr Neil Waller
Following further discussions the application was approved with seven votes in favour and five against.
The proposed facility is expected to provide 24 EV charging points on its forecourt, with a two-storey service station with facilities where customers could wait for their vehicles to charge.
It would also have a large solar farm – which applicants say would be capable of producing 5.5mw of power – with battery storage behind.
For further information see application reference WD/2020/1244/MAJ on the Wealden District Council website.