Work to build new homes on a pile of bricks and rubble - dubbed a ‘bombsite’ by local people - is set to get started this month.
The former Merrydown Group which made cider and fruit wines from its factory in Horam closed its doors in 2004 when the firm relocated to Surrey. The buildings were knocked down and the site was earmarked for housing development, firstly by David Wilson Homes and then more recently by Redrow Homes South East.
Development passed into the hands of the newly created Beech Merrydown company. Director Steve Knott told the Express: “I am happy to say we are starting work within two to three weeks. We regret there have been hold-ups but this is due to problems with statutory utility companies such as gas, water and electricity. Hopefully those have now been resolved and we can get on with our work.”
Local councillor Susan Stedman said: “The site was left in the most terrible mess and we have been living with that ever since.
“It is a blight on the community. As you can imagine, once planning consent was given local traders have been anxious to see the work started and completed. Horam is a lovely village and we have lived with this eyesore for long enough.”
The first application was for 92 homes but that was opposed by both the Parish Council and Wealden District councils. Finally an application for 59 homes and live-work units was approved. Cllr Stedman went on: “The live-work units are really important and we are pleased to see them retained in the overall concept.”
The District Council’s standardised requirement for affordable housing was originally contested by former applicants but Mr Knott now confirms the original number of affordable homes will be built although there is no legal requirement for them to do so.
The affordable provision was removed during disucssions with planners but Beech Merrydown decided to continue with proposals to build the number first considered.
Of the 59 new homes, 17 will fit that category and are much-needed in Horam, councillors and local people say.
The Merrydown Group started life in 1946 when founders set up the cider production firm at a cottage in Horam and production rose to 400,000 gallons by 1955. At its peak the factory employed more than 125 people.
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