fbpx

Wealden told it must allow more houses to be built

An independent Planning Inspector has told Wealden District Council they have failed in their legal duty. The Council have been advised to withdraw the Plan and start over again.

Inspector Louise Nurser’s main concern is that the Council failed in their duty to co-operate with neighbouring authorities and Natural England, the government’s advisory body for the environment.

In particular, Miss Nurser felt there was “no meaningful discussion” with Eastbourne Borough Council regarding its inability to meet its housing need.

In her findings she cited four other neighbouring planning authorities which argued Wealden District Council had failed to meet its duty to co-operate with them in relation to air quality matters, cross boundary impacts on Special Areas of Conservation, Eastbourne’s unmet housing and employment needs, and strategic infrastructure.

Wealden’s new Local Plan restricted most of new housing to the southern half of the district, in order to protect the Ashdown Forest from car pollution as the population increases. 

Monitoring station adjacent to the A26 at Poundgate, Crowborough

The Planning Inspector has said the Council’s method of estimating pollution from vehicles in the future was “lacking in scientific credibility”. Against the recommendation of Natural England and their own air quality advisers, Wealden District Council choose not to assume there would be technological improvements which would cut air pollution from vehicles in the future.

Unsurprisingly Wealden District Council is disappointed by the decision. The Leader of Wealden District Council, Councillor Bob Standley said:

Throughout the Local Plan process, we have always tried to find the right balance between the need for growth in housing and employment land, and the need to protect our unique environment.

Our approach to protect the environment has been supported by our Councillors and many of our residents.

Unfortunately, the Planning Inspector, following last summer’s Examination in Public of our Local Plan, has found that we put too great an emphasis on protecting the environment and that we need to do more to build houses in Wealden which our neighbouring councils cannot accommodate.

Regrettably, this will inevitably have impacts on our communities. We acknowledge that there is already significant pressure on infrastructure; such as roads, doctors, dentists, schools and sports facilities. A requirement to build more homes will only have a greater impact on those facilities, which will require further investment.

The Inspector’s role is to assess whether the Plan was prepared in accordance with legal and procedural requirements. Louise Nurser BA (Hons) Dip UP MRTPI reached her decision in October. As it is standard procedure not to release decisions or recommendations which may raise sensitivities and could be used to electoral advantage, her finding were withheld until after the General Election. This is why they have only been made public today (Monday 6th January).

A Local Plan sets-out the guiding principles used to determine development of an area, taking into account the local economic, social and environmental conditions.

Local planning authorities are required to make every effort to secure the necessary co-operation on strategic cross boundary matters before they submit their Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate for examination.

Councillor Ann Newton, Deputy Leader and Planning and Development Portfolio Holder, added:

We are disappointed at the time taken to reach this decision and the resulting uncertainty created since these issues were discussed in May last year.

In recommending to withdraw our Local Plan and starting afresh, we will continue to do all we can to ensure that extra growth is accommodated in a way that is sensitive to the needs of existing residents. We will continue to strive for sustainable growth that provides infrastructure for our communities and is consistent with our commitment to become a carbon-neutral District.

Click to see a full copy of the Planning Inspector’s findings of the draft Wealden Local Plan.

Wealden District Council have said a new timetable for the Local Plan process will be discussed by the Local Plan Sub-Committee.

4 comments on “Wealden told it must allow more houses to be built
  1. What a surprise. Sod the environment, sod the countryside, sod local comunities. Build, build, build and leave us all to pick up the pieces. Mone,money,money is the name of the game. Propert developers and builders will be rubbing their hands with glee.

  2. I trust Mr Jenkins your comments above, are made with the smugness of someone who is adeqately housed, ?
    Of course the environment is important, but so is proper housing for young families, children, and single people .to be able to thrive and grow in suitable accomodation.
    Small villages with Schools, small businesses, Pubs , Shops etc in the North of the County of East Sussex, need people, to be able to continue to exsist. We cant all live in towns, with good bus and train services .
    Villages more often than not ,are largely made up of older people in large houses who would like to downsize to smaller properties, but Wealden has chosen to give planning permission to private building companies ,to build 4 / 5 bedroomed houses worth over 1.2 million pounds plus, How does that help local people struggling to get on the housing ladder ?
    We need more mixed Sussex Style housing developments, made from environmentally friendly materials ,with 2-3 bedroom private houses and Social Housing, so that older people can downsize and young people can continue to live in the area they were brought up in, and be able to continue supporting their communities.
    Wealden do not think about the ageing population and their needs when building accomodation.A huge saving could be made by adequate innovative planning, so that people are not so dependent on the state to provide care in later years, ie extra room downstairs that can double up as a bedroom if necessary, and a showeroom / and toilet downstairs. Older people do not want to be lumped together in sheltered housing , or worse 1 bed flats.
    People in general are taking on board the issues of the environment and trying to do their bit .A number of my friends and ourselves, have made adjustments in buying more environmentally friendly cars ,using the bus if there is one, sharing car journeys ,recycling,cutting down on heating ,insulating more.buying less meat ,not wasteing food ,clothes, etc etc.
    Warm adequate housing, is at the top of everyones priority need.
    It is not good enough for Wealden to use the excuse they are protecting Ashdown Forest, when they have closed local waste tips and Ashdown Forest and local farmers are struggling with fly tipping, plus Wealden have with drawn funding grants towards maintaining Ashdown Forest. How is that protecting the Forest ? Yes, We all need to step up and increase our personal responsibility to global warming, but with holding building local ,small developments to house the local population is not a fair and justifiable excuse.

  3. I hope people will read the inspectors letter on Wealden Website as in my view your headline is misleading and does not reflect the inspectors concerns or his main reason for requiring the plan to be withdrawn.

  4. Wealden have a statutory duty to protect large areas of Wealden notably the High Weald AONB which is a designated landscape and the most important surviving ancient medieval landscape in Northern Europe. NPPF states that that any development within the AONB should “enhance and beautify”, and housing and all development on these areas needs to be absolutely prohibited.

    Ashdown Forest also needs special protection, hence the SPA. There are plenty of brownfield sites within the district to be exploited to provide extra housing stock. These areas need to be protected and left alone.

    We were under the impression that Wealden had declared a Climate Emergency, and we fully support their stance,with regards to resisting development in some of the most beautiful, nationally designated and unspoilt areas of the District.

    We have already done irreversible damage to our environment as is now becoming clear and we would like to see to see the climate and the environment at the heart of the Wealden plan. Everything else must come second including housing.

Share Your Views