Blueprint unlocks Wealden’s future

THE key policy document that will unlock the future of Wealden’s towns, roads and countryside was discussed at a full council meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting was scheduled to take place last week but was postponed because of snow and ice.

Members were asked to approve the full 112 pages of the report which outlined the council’s Core Strategy – the crucial document which set out the strategic framework for planning up until 2030.

The original document had already been seen, amended and approved by the council’s cabinet after a full public consultation last year.

It sets out the way forward for housing, the expansion of towns, removal in some cases of development boundaries and how infrastructure like roads, schools and medical services should keep pace. And in a controversial paragraph, it points out the economic situation has changed since the South East Plan was launched and with it, the market to deliver new homes. It goes on to say some infrastructure projects, such as school places, roads or leisure facilities might only be started after the start of the building programme and could only be delivered once the homes are finished or occupied.

Uckfield, with its relatively young population, looks set to absorb 1,000 new homes, (many west of New Town,) Hailsham 1,300, Heathfield 160, (most north west of the A265) and Crowborough 300 with an additional 17,000 square metres of retail floorspace and 40,000 square metres of employment space.

The rate of building has been scaled down from the former Government’s demands and should now even out at about 400 a year – equal to the recent scale of growth.

The findings are underpinned by the need to encourage growth but not harm the area’s unspoilt rural nature. Wealden has a current population of about 146,000, of which half live outside the area’s main towns.

It absorbs about 600 people a year from elsewhere in the UK and this looks set to total 19,000 incomers by the year 2030.