The draft Proposed Subission Local Plan was published on 27 June for a consultation period between 13 August and 8 October. The plan, together with supporting documents can be found at:
Basically, the plan provides for 14,228 new houses to be built in the District in the 15 years between 2013 and 2028.
Thankfully, no houses have been allocated to Westham, although Stone Cross has been allocated a further 833 houses in addition to the 750 houses built or granted permission since 2013. As if this number was not enough, Wealden considers that the Parish can also accommodate a further 77 houses on windfall sites (these are sites that are not allocated in the local plan but come forward over the plan period). Wealden's intentions mean that Stone Cross will grow by at least 1,600 houses from 2013, approximately doubling it in size.
In total, the plan envisges that Westham Parish will grow by 1,665 houses beween 2013 and 2028 which is by far, the seconda largest increase after Hailsham, which is to gow by 5,107 houses. The only other settlement with more than 1,000 new houses is Uckfield, with Crowborough, Polegate and Heathfield all getting less than a thousand.
Weaden's reasons for concentrating development in the south of the District is because of the effect of additional traffic emissions on Ashdown Forest. The Forest is protected and is a good example of lowland heath, both dry heath and wet heath. The heathers etc. thrive on the poor quality soil of the forest. Unfortunately, the forest flora is not in good condition and has been damaged by pollution, both from vehicles crossing the forest and that blown in from elsewhere. However, the largest source of pollution is from vehicles which emit NOx and to a smaller extent ammonia. These two gasses have the effect of fertilising the soil meaning that other, non protected species, thrive in the fertilised ground and crowd out the protected species. Thus, more houses means more traffic and more pollution making Wealden's legal duty to protect the forest more difficult.
There is very little that Wealden can do to restict traffic from new houses but placing as many of the houses as far as possile away from the forest, limits the amount of new traffic that will use the forest roads. But as the forest is already suffering damage from the existing traffic, Wealden has to plan to stop any increase in traffic emissions reaching the forest. Emissions of course come from all petrol/diesel vehicles and these will be increasing because of development across the South East that Wealden cannot control. In the plan, there are two Policies AF 1 (on page 43) and AF 2 (on pages 44/45) that sets out their approach to preventing any increse in emissions, however, it is considered that the proposed mitigation is a fig leaf and will be ineffective in reducing emissions.
It is hoped that the government insector, who will be examining the plan before it can be adopted, will agree. However, although being supposedly independent, inspectors are charged with increasing the supply of housing and frequently have demanded greater housing numbers than the local authority has included within their plan. So, he/she may find a way to conveniently ignore the Ashdown Forest problem.
So, where are the new houses planned for Wesham Parish to go?
1. 100 houses on Dittons Nursery
2. 75 houses south of Dittons Road and east of Golden Jubilee Way (there is a planning application already with Wealden for 90 houses on this site).
3. 90 houses on the field behind St Luke's Church and Pickens Wood (an application for these houses is already with Wealden).
4. 250 houses at Friday Street Farm.
5. 318 houses between Peelings Lane and the railway, straddling Rattle Road and coming to within about 120m of Oaklands.
6. the 77 windfalls can go anywhere within the Parish as long as they do not conflict with other appropriate polices.
Whereas the Conservation Group consider that Stone Cross has received far too much development already and no further houses should be permitted, it is the 568 houses at Friday Street Farm and each side of Rattle Road that most concern the Group. Those at Friday Street Farm will be highly visible in the landscape whilst those each side of Rattle Road will considerable close the countryside gap between Westham and Stone Cross. With Stone Cross now unfortunately but effectively being a suburb of Eastbourne, a 120m gap between that suburb and Westham is far too small to maintain separate identities and maintain Westham's character and setting.
Further details and advice on how to respond to the consultation will be posted here shortly.
Wealden must be confident that their draft submission local plan is nearing completion as they have scheduled a Local Plan Sub-committee meeting for 5 July 2018. This means that the draft plan should be published by 29 June 2018.
Wealden has accepted that its draft plan is not ready for consultation and hopes to issue the final draft later in the summer. However, it is considered that this is being very optimistic and the final draft could take considerably longer to produce.
Wealden has published its draft submission Local Plan. This is due to be voted on by the Full Council and if they accept it, it will go out for a six week consultation.
Thankfully, the draft has omitted the 350 houses proposed for Westham, but it has increased the number of houses from 500 for Stone Cross to 833. This means that between 2013 and 2028, Stone Cross will have the 750 houses already granted permission and being constructed, plus the proposed 833, making a total of 1,588 new houses! (approximately 3,800 more people, taking up the equivalent of 90 football pitches of countryside).
This means that Stone Cross will have the second largest housing allocation in Wealden after Hailsham. This allocation is bigger than that proposed for Uckfield, Crowborough, Polegate, Willingdon and Heathfield.
Those of you who attended the group's briefing on Wednesday 7th September 2016 at the Village Hall will now be aware that Wealden District Council is proposing to build 350 new homes in the village.In addition, Stone Cross has been earmarked for a further 500 homes on top of the 650 that are either currently being built or have planning permission. Stone Cross is effectively now a suburb of Eastbourne and unless Wealden can be persuaded to change their plans, Westham will also be swallowed up So, if you want your village to retain its rural character and are prepared to give a few hours of your time to help fight off this threat, please contact any member of the committee.
Please contact us and join the group to help ensure that residents have a voice.
We are a community group run entirely by volunteers. We welcome any kind of support. If you would like to join the Westham Village Conservation Group, please contact the Membership Secretary.