Families living in Little Horsted and on the western side of the A22 near Uckfield fear developers might be eyeing up land to supplement schemes scheduled for the south west of the town.
Simon Autie, chairman of the Little Horsted Parish Meeting said: “Because 1,000 new homes are to be built at Ridgewood Farm and space is at a premium we hear developers are looking to create SANGS (areas of natural green space, essential to mitigate building schemes within seven kilometres of the Ashdown Forest) on the opposite side of the A22.
“There can be no development north so the focus for residential growth will be down towards Uckfield. It will be funnelled southwards and the pressure will be enormous. The impetus to create this green space this side of the by-pass is coming from developers themselves.”
What concerns him most is the impact on local amenities of leisure areas accessible to visitors; lighting and tarmaccing the underpass below the road, potential use of the space for sports, damage and pollution. He also fears once the precedent is set, there will be little protection for the landscape.
Andrew Hodgson, spokesman for Welbeck Land - the company responsible for planning the Ridgewood Farm scheme included in the council’s Core Strategy - confirmed: “We are looking into this and continuing discussions with the District Council to establish where would be suitable. A planning application will be issued soon.”
Cllr Ann Newton, Wealden District Council’s planning portfolio holder assured protesters green spaces are precisely that. She said: “What ends up as SANGS are SANGS in perpetuity. This would not end up as a playing field, in fact it would have the highest landscape protection as a top grade open space.”
Wealden’s SANGS guidelines state: For sites to function as effective SANGS they must act as an alternative to Ashdown Forest, attracting people who would otherwise visit the SPA. Critical to the effectiveness of any SANGS provision is the location of SANGS, scale, on-site features and overall design. The aim is that any SANGS provision must be more attractive to use as a recreational resource than the Ashdown Forest to ensure that it diverts users.’
But Simon and fellow residents say potential use of land this side of the road has not been made public and people are unaware of the threat. “Because they do not plan to floodlight or tarmac now, does not mean they will not in the future. We are having a meeting tonight (Thursday) when the impact will be debated.”