The scheme to build new homes on a 12 acre site at the back of Heathfield Police Station could be resurrected if a better site for housing cannot be found in the town.
The proposal was outlined in full detail at a public exhibition in the town’s community centre on Monday night.
Representatives from Uckfield firm Summertree Estates, Gleeson Developments and their agents answered questions and interpreted display boards showing site plans and summing up progress made so far.
Although most visitors were in favour, some were concerned about access onto the busy A267, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours when traffic builds up. They also worried about inadequate capacity at local schools and medical centres.
The original aim to build 160 homes has been scaled back to 115 with 35 per cent designated ‘affordable.’ The reason given was that the remainder of the site was in multiple ownership and could not be put forward in one piece.
Although the scheme had been enthusiastically welcomed by parish councillors and business leaders who felt it would help Heathfield remain a viable and lively community, it had unexpectedly fallen foul of a ruling which disallows development in the AONB.
Developers’ agent Andrew Wilford from Barton Willmore said: “During a one-day examination of the District’s Core Strategy which mainly focused on the seven-kilometre rule, this stayed a bit on the back burner, Inspector Michael Moore agreed there is significant need for affordable housing in Heathfield. Planners were asked to go away and seriously investigate whether or not there is alternative land available that is free from restrictions and could deliver the same number of homes, but that has already been done and we feel there is nowhere more suitable.”
He points out that last March the District’s affordable housing waiting list for Heathfield confirmed 176 applicants with 50 having a local connection to Heathfleid and Waldron, 28 pending confirmation as having a local connection and 98 who have specified the area as their first choice area to live.
Using Government statistics they estimate the scheme could generate £1.6 million a year in Gross Value Added terms, half-a-million expenditure in convenience goods and about the same in leisure goods and services. There would also be 173 direct construction jobs.
So developers are continuing to seek people’s views on the scheme. They hope people will let them know what they think.
If you could not get to the exhibition you can contact Barton Willmore at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on: 01322 374660.