The fact that 1,000 new homes will be built on Ridgewood Farm, Uckfield is not in question; what is uncertain is how the new ‘neighbourhood’ will shape up, where access will be and what infrastructure will serve the site.
More than 300 people visited an exhibition at the Civic Centre last weekend and were asked for their views via a questionnaire. Most were angry and felt the scheme had been imposed on the town with very little advance consultation. But others said this was their chance to fight for the best outcome.
The exhibition - in the form of maps, plans and photographs - was mounted by developers Welbeck Strategic Land and can be viewed at the library for two weeks. It explained how Wealden District Council’s housing needs assessment in 2010 concluded new homes should be built as extensions to existing towns rather than new settlements. Uckfield was earmarked for 1,000 new homes and 12,650 square metres of new employment floor space. The reasons given were that Uckfield has a London rail link, vibrant town centre and frequent bus services. Access options shown were from a roundabout on the A22, a junction in Lewes Road and one from the by-pass to the business park and sewage works.
Michael McLoughlin from New Road, Ridgewood (a volunteer with the Millennium Green Trust) said: “I am quite surprised the scheme has got this far without any real discussions on infrastructure but I understand the fact that the farm will be developed is now set in stone and we must work to make sure we obtain the best result we can.”
Mel Sanders from Ridgewood was more critical. He said: “Few residents’ comments were positive; most were horrified at the sheer size of the development, bigger than Manor Park. When Wealden presented the proposal two years ago it was very low key. Few people knew about it. Now it is becoming a reality people realise it will affect everyone living in Uckfield. Five years ago the by-pass was recognised as operating close to its intended design capacity at peak periods and no major developments should take place until proper infrastructure was inplace. Since then more than 350 more houses have been built. Fernley Park is still to be completed, there are 113 homes behind the hospital and 16 houses alongside St Philip’s School. The main entrance to the site will be a roundabout on the A22 at one of its narrowest points and a proposed secondary entrance on the Lewes Road will cause serious traffic safety problems.” Plans for the site could be submitted to Wealden District Council this summer.