Update (Oct 2018): A new planning application has been submitted for 103 homes between the Rugby Club and Palegate Lane.
The scheme is a resubmission of a previously application for the same land (Ref: WD/2013/2410/MEA). The previous application was refused by Wealden District Council in February 2014 but challenged at appeal. The government’s independent Planning Inspector took the view that the development should be allowed subject to a series of planning conditions.
The appeal was subsequently challenged by Wealden District Council on grounds that the Inspector had not given sufficient weight to the nitrogen deposition impact on the Ashdown Forest. A further challenge made in a higher court, and the appeal is being held in abeyance by the Planning Inspectorate.
Since then, Wealden District Council has published its new Local Plan. The planning blueprint sets out the strategic priorities for development in the district. The land at Steel Cross is now included within development boundary for Crowborough.
Crowborough Town Council (CTC) have objected to the new application. The believe the development does not have regard to the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). They also object in terms of the additional car journeys:
CTC would like to know if Natural England has been specifically consulted on this development inside the High Weald AONB. Contrary to Policy EA5 in the new Draft Local Plan this development is not small scale, does nothing to enhance the landscape, or the social well-being of the AONB and it does not support the economy. The location of the development will create considerable additional traffic movements with all Primary Schools, the town centre and the existing SANG outside of a reasonable walking distance. If this application is approved additional SANG mitigation should be included.
You can view the application here: (Ref: WD/2018/2122/MAO). The deadline for comments is 9th November 2018.
Original article (Feb 2017): Can Steel Cross residents breathe a sigh of relief?
In the latest phase in a protracted legal battle, Knight Developments and the Secretary of State took the matter to the Court of Appeal last year. Now two Judges have dismissed their appeal.
Wealden District Council has welcomed the ruling. Councillor Ann Newton, Cabinet member for Planning and Development at Wealden District Council, said:
A year ago, we were successful at the High Court in overturning a Planning Inspector’s decision which went against the Council, and would have allowed a development which, without suitable mitigation, would have damaged Ashdown Forest.
We have been called upon again to protect the Wealden countryside, this time in the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal dismissed two appeals calling for the Planning Inspector’s decision to stand, and refused permission to appeal to The Supreme Court.It is important for Crowborough and the people of the District that their elected representatives continue to guide development within the District through the accepted planning processes.
Knight Developments Ltd in Essex wanted to build 103 houses including 42 affordable homes at Steel Cross, on land between Palesgate Lane and the Rugby Club. Access to the 40 acre site would have been via a modified junction off Green Lane. Planning consultant ASP based at Crowborough Cross have been acting as Knight Developments’ agents.
Warren Saville, a local resident who has been campaigning against the development, gave his reaction:
We are obviously delighted with the news that Knight Developments and the local company ASP have failed with their appeal to have the decision of the High Court overturned. It’s been 4 years of uncertainty and it is a great relief to my family and many of our neighbours who were totally against this proposed development.
This was never a suitable site for this scale of development and I am obviously glad of the Council’s stance, showing that you cannot just come along and build wherever you like and think that a fat wallet and a highly skilled legal team can achieve this.
We realise the need for affordable housing and hopefully now the Council can concentrate its efforts on the sites it has already approved for development in our area.
But this is not necessary the end of the road: If the developer does not “call it a day”, it is understood that the matter goes back to the Planning Inspectorate for a new hearing. The developer has been approached for a statement. Although the Court of Appeal has not given leave to appeal their decision, parties can make an application direct to The Supreme Court – the highest court in the land. Watch this space!
Click below to read the judgement of Lord Justice McFarlane and Lord Justice Lindblom:
The long legal battle
|Wealden District Council: The planning battle began in 2013, when Knight Developments submitted a planning application to Wealden District Council to build 103 houses on land between Palesgate Lane and the Rugby Club. Wealden District Council’s planning committee refused the application on 13th February 2014. Councillors made their decision primarily because of damage to the natural environment, although concerns were also expressed about traffic and the lack of sustainable transport.|
|Planning Inspectorate: Knight Developments used their prerogative to appeal the decision to the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government. A hearing was held in public at Hendall Manor Barns in Heron’s Ghyll during March and April 2015. Planning Inspector David Nicholson was persuaded to overturned the Council’s decision allowing the houses to be built.|
|High Court: Wealden District Council appealed the decision in the High Court. In her judgement, Mrs Justice Lang said that fumes from additional cars would have a detrimental effect on the Ashdown Forest. She also felt the Planning Inspector had not adequately assessed whether other more suitable sites were available for housing. She quashed the Planning Inspector’s decision on 17th February 2016 thereby leaving Wealden’s original refusal to stand.|
|Court of Appeal: The Secretary of State for Communities and Knight Developments appealed. A hearing was held on the 18th & 19th October 2016. On 31st January 2017, Lord Justice McFarlane and Lord Justice Lindblom “handed-down” their written judgement upholding the Justice Lang’s decision. It is understood that the matter now goes back to the Planning Inspectorate for a new hearing.|