Around 50 people turned out for a meeting in Crowborough giving local businesses and the public an opportunity to discuss issues faced by them as a result of the Ashdown Forest Directive.
A number of questions were asked about some of the policies in Wealden District Council’s Core Strategy at the meeting set up by councillors, including worries about the 7km zone drawn up to protect the forest after experts suggested it could be harmed above a certain level of development.
The strategy, setting out development plans until 2027, brought in the 7km zone to restrict development within it. But some claim the zone is having a detrimental affect on economic growth, businesses and social development within the area.
Jeremy Woolger, President of Crowborough and District Chamber of Commerce said: “It was pleasing to see so many councillors made the effort to attend. A high level of frustration has built up over the two years since the policy was implemented which has been seen as having a negative impact on businesses within the 7km zone.
“Therefore it was encouraging to be assured by portfolio holder Cllr Ann Newton SANGS provision was at last imminent which should help to alleviate many of the problems currently faced. It has been noted that attitudes within the council have also changed in the past year, with a far more pro-active approach now being adopted.
“We welcome this softening stance and would encourage any business with concerns about how the policy may affect their expansion plans to contact the council’s planning department or their local councillor to discuss before making any decisions.
“The council has also admitted the restrictions have caused issues never envisaged when it was created and the Chamber appreciates the willingness evident from councillors to help these small scale developments to proceed wherever possible.
“We will continue to work closely with Wealden to ensure business development and the creation of employment can proceed in harmony with protecting the ecology of the forest.”
SANGS provision are Suitable Alternative Natural Green Spaces which may be used to allievate recreational pressure on the forest.
Ann Newton, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Development at the council, said she was pleased to have had the opportunity to meet with the public, to support and give reassurance that she was happy to work together to find resolutions to some of the problems.