Councillors at Monday’s meeting debated weighty issues which have an impact on the lives of everyone living in the town. They considered a document which asked for the town council’s element of the rates to rise by 11.19 per cent. This would have increased Band D tax from £143.79 to £159.89, an increase of £16.10.
After discussion it was proposed to aim to restrict the increase to about two per cent and refer the matter back to the finance sub-committee to look at expenses. It was suggested that cuts could come from maintenance on council properties, conversion of water tanks to main feed and CCTV. The budget for 2015–2016 will be agreed in January.
Members were also given an update following last week’s County Council meeting about development at Ridgewood Farm.
Town mayor Cllr Ian Smith, who attended, said: “It is shifting sand. Last week the Wealden District Council planning department held a protocol meeting where there was an opportunity for potential building applicants to lay out their plans for the site and where ideas and concerns were allowed to be expressed.
“Among points concerning difficulties was a ‘ransom strip’ - an area on the by-pass where the developer would like to build a road to take vehicles onto site rather than through the town. Also this would provide future access to the Southern Water waste management for the sludge bowsers which currently access it by going up Bridge Farm Road and through that estate. This area of land is owned by the County Council who wanted a phenomenal amount of money for access across this land. Cllr Claire Dowling immediately took on this problem, arranged a separate dialogue and now there is a deal to be done.”
Originally, he said, plans of the development plus details of a website should have been available in the library by Friday, December 12 but due to ransom strip discussions this has been delayed.
The housing mix was another issue raised. Cllr Helen Firth explained that developers, Welbeck, said they could not afford to build ‘affordable housing’. They initially wanted to build 90 five-bedroomed houses, several hundred four-bedroomed houses and 300 three-bedroomed houses and then a mix of two and one bedroomed accommodation, none of which, they wanted to be available at social rents. She pledged to commit to continue fighting to get a provision for housing that can be rented and will update on her progress in due course.