Inspector challenges Local Plan

L1428092 SUS-150526-110423001
L1428092 SUS-150526-110423001

A major row is looming as Wealden’s planners take up cudgels against a Government planning inspector’s devastating proposal.

The issue - which could overturn the council’s blueprint - focuses on changes to Wealden’s plans for Pine Grove, Crowborough. Inspector Mike Fox said the 30 homes planned for the site should go to Uckfield instead. He also supported the community’s wish to make it a business hub.

He believes reducing plans for 91 homes on the site and using some of the space for office floor space, community use and car parking was the most appropriate.

If his views are enforced, it could see the whole of the council’s Strategic Sites Local Plan - which underpins the future shape of the District - returned to the drawing board, unleashing a tidal wave of applications from would-be developers.

The Plan has undergone rigorous consultation and been more than five years in the shaping. Meanwhile Wealden is being urged to proceed with the scheduled 2015 review of its Plan to avoid becoming bogged down in changes suggested by the Inspector. He has also proposed Wealden should increase the allocation of housing in Hailsham by 190 regardless of the outcome of the 2015 Review. The 30 new homes for Uckfield would be on top of the 1,000 already allocated. Both are contrary to the agreed 2013 Plan.

Council leader Bob Standley said: “The Core Strategy is Wealden’s Local Plan. We followed extensive evidence gathering and consultation processes to develop and agree it. Making arbitrary changes as proposed by the Inspector is not appropriate or justified and in any case would require extensive infrastucture, environmental and habitats assessment. We are committed to carrying out the 2015 Review of the Local Plan and need to concentrate our resources on this as the best way of maintaining current economic growth while safeguarding our countryside from haphazard development.”

Cllr Standley fears legal challenges are expected if the council is forced to make changes and these could conflict with the Plan, already judged ‘sound’ at Public Examination and legally approved by the council. He confirmed Crowborough Town Council’s bid for Pine Grove is unaffected by the situation and he wants to see its future resolved as quickly as possible.