Consultation is a ‘sham’ residents tell government

A ‘sham’ and a ‘suppression of Localism’ - that is what Wealden District Council’s consultation on its strategic sites local plan has been called by Hailsham and Hellingly residents.

Grant De Jongh, chairman of the 1,000 strong North Hailsham and Hellingly Residents Union, wrote to the government calling on the secretary of state to intervene before the council voted on plans for one of the sites yesterday (Thursday).

A decision was due to be made at the council’s planning committee meeting on an application by The Fairfield Partnership for 650 homes, a new primary school and 300 square metres of retail floorspace and allotments on land east of Park Road and South of New Road, Hailsham.

The plans also include a new link road between Park Road and New Road.

Union members were due to protest outside the council offices before the meeting.

Mr De Jongh said making a decision while still consulting on the local plan, with the closing date being July 29, was ‘predetermination’.

His letter to the secretary of state said: “This matter is in regard to what we are calling a “sham consultation” being carried out by Wealden District Council.

“Why are they wasting tax payers money by carrying a consultation the results of which are meaningless if they disagree with the Council’s plans anyway.”

Last week the Sussex Express reported plans had been submitted by Hallam Land Management Ltd for another development of 240 homes for land west of Park Road

“The council should be voting on these two applications at the same time to ensure they deliver on the promised infrastructure this time unlike the last time where they rubber stamped 1,000 homes with promises of medical care, schools, better drainage and roads only a fraction of which was delivered,” Mr de Jongh said.

“The local primary school for example is over subscribed by 300 per cent.”

He said if the government intervened there would be no recourse for appeal by the developers ‘and Wealden can at least give us the impression that they are behaving democratically’.

“I think that our case highlights the fact council’s think localism is just a bad joke they need to play along with. In this case they don’t even care about looking genuine insofar as they are voting on matters before their public consultation even finishes.

A spokesman for Wealden District Council said: “The Local Plan Core Startegy emphasies the need for the infrastructure to be in place to meet the new development and part of the consulation taking place is about the new Community Infrastructure Levy which will help pay for these in the the future.

“We are also working with the local councils in Hailsham and Hellingly and East Sussex County Council on the Movement and Access Strategy for Hailsham and Hellingly.”

Planning applications not dealt with would be called in by the Secretary of State, removing ‘local consideration’.