Ticking the same old boxes

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THE Minister for Planning has stated in crystal clear language, “we are allowing people and communities back into planning”. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is the instrument which dispenses with “over a thousand pages of national policy” and which states simply and with clarity the current approach to national and local planning. The NPPF is quite new and having listened to the deliberations of the Wealden Planning Committee South on 19 July and 16 August, it seems that the transition to new thinking in our district council has some way to go.

Two Committee meetings were needed before a decision could be reached on the application to develop Ersham Farm (in Hailsham) and, on both occasions, the objections presented were numerous, well-reasoned, valid and all had the interests of Hailsham as a community at heart.

“Sustainability” is the key word throughout the NPPF. In the discussions, the Ersham Farm application leant heavily on the property being within the Hailsham town boundary, but filling with constructions every little patch of open land within the town boundary is, by no stretch of the imagination, sustainable. Our thinking has to be wider, more creative and depart from ticking boxes on a checklist.

The Sustainability Report produced by the Wealden Planning Department for the second Committee meeting was just such an exercise in ticking those old boxes and, apart from being inappropriate in this new environment, is frankly a lazy way of proceeding.

These days, we are all charged with planning as a “creative exercise in finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which we live our lives”. Over a hundred people from the local electorate tried to do just that in connection with the Ersham Farm application but in the end were rejected by weak counter arguments and by some Councillors who admitted they would like to vote to reject the application but failed to produce the courage of their convictions.

One Councillor so rightly said on Thursday, 16 August that we must work to prevent Hailsham imploding.

My belief is that the large majority in the public gallery left the meeting feeling that we are on a contrary course in Hailsham.

S Robertson, Hailsham