Horam village centre looks set to be transformed as agreement is set to be reached over developing the derelict former Merrydown factory site.
But there is also a proposal on the table to transform the empty Horam Inn which, villagers say, might not be what it seems.
The Merrydown site was previously used for the production of Merrydown Cider and has been vacant since 2004. It was earmarked for housing development, formerly by David Wilson Homes and more recently by Redrow Homes (South East.)
The original application for 92 homes was opposed by the Parish and Wealden District councils. A subsequent application for 59 homes and live-work units was approved.
Site ownership has now passed to Beech Merrydown which has now produced a development viability report.
The firm asks for an affordable housing provision to be removed, which, it says, would mean the scheme would be too costly to progress. Wealden planners have earmarked the request for approval. They say the development must be started within 12 months and finished in three years. This, they add, is to make sure the site is not withdrawn and simply used as a land bank.
Beech Merrydown say they will build affordable homes and also guarantee providing employment units but wish to do so without fitting into the strict provision required in the former planning agreement.
Most villagers are delighted the eyesore site will finally be developed although the Parish Council rejected Beech Merrydown’s proposal. But Horam District councillor Susan Stedman said: “We must get this site improved. It is a blight on the village and brings the community down. Developers will also give a substantial sum of money and provide vital play space at the recreation ground.”
Meanwhile mystery surrounds the future of the currently closed Horam Inn. Also before Wealden planners is a proposal from FPC (Horam) LLP to build a ground floor extension to the pub and remove a condition which restricts it to be approved as a ‘restaurant only’.
The Sussex Express was directed from FPC to a company called 14I Capital but as yet has had no response. Cllr Stedman points out the firm has a history of buying empty pubs and converting them to convenience stores, proposals now allowed by new Government legislation. The council’s planning committee meets later this month.