Council charges are a ‘ransom’

Cllr Michael Lunn SUS-150510-150732001
Cllr Michael Lunn SUS-150510-150732001

A councillor has called a demand that owners of a Buxted cottage must pay almost £7,000 before it can be used as a home a ‘ransom.’

April Cottage was used as a doctors’ surgery until the village’s new health centre was built. Owner Dr Clarissa Fabre converted it into an alternative therapy centre, but would now like to see it revert to its original residential use.

The proposal was refused in 2013 on grounds that there were no proposals to mitigate adverse effects of nitrogen deposits on the Ashdown Forest under the council’s 7km ruling.

But a Government Inspector removed the rule from the Core Strategy this July although planners insist if any potential development is within an area which covers Buxted, it must be proved the Forest will not be adversely affected.

Applicants, (one is Dr Clarissa Fabre) have been told the application might be approved subject to a payment of £5,000 towards a SANGS (alternative natural space) and £1,710 towards SAMMS (strategic access management) plus a Grampian Condition preventing a scheme starting until off-site works on land they do not control are finished. At a recent meeting, Buxted parish councillors quoted the Appeal ruling which included judges’ concerns about delays caused by absence of SANGS provision.

Members said: “We agree with this real concern which prevents this type of application from becoming a reality. We question the high cost Wealden imposes on applications towards SANGS and SAMMS which we would like to see justified.”

Cllr Lunn added: “April Cottage is a beautiful cottage in the centre of Buxted. It is my strong belief that it should be re-used for residential purposes. I believe that there are now material planning policy reasons whereby permission should be granted. The parish is concerned applicants must pay this sum almost to ransom.”

Responding, a Wealden spokesman told Cllr Lunn the Court decision does not mean applications close to the Forest can now be approved without SANGS and SAMMS. They quote: “By striking out reference to 7km would not leave a policy gap since schemes still require screening against habitat regulations. If avoiding adverse effects on the Ashdown Forest SPA could only be achieved by providing a SANG, that requirement could be imposed on a site-specific basis.”

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