Fund could open up 7km development around Ashdown Forest

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A new infrastructure fund could open up development in Ashdown Forest, Wealden District Council has said.

Moves to allow new development to take place within the 7km mitigation area without damaging wildlife have been approved by the district council’s Cabinet.

The Wealden District Core strategy, which sets out development plans until 2027, brought in a 7km zone to restrict development and help protect the forest.

But some claimed the zone was having a detrimental affect on economic growth, businesses and social development within the area. Now the council said it is to create a £5million revolving infrastructure fund to support the creation of alternative natural green spaces which will allow new development to take place within the 7km mitigation area around Ashdown Forest without damaging its wildlife.

A key requirement of these spaces known as SANGS – Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space – will be the creation of circular walks in a natural landscape with adequate car parking.

Cllr Ann Newton, Cabinet member for Planning and Development, said: “These SANGS will be additional green spaces, similar to a country park, for the benefit of all Wealden residents.

“We are already working with private developers in Crowborough and Uckfield on suitable SANGS arrangements, but we will still need to consider investment in the early delivery of SANGS.

“These provisions will safeguard the outstanding ecology that is part of our growing district. They will help ensure that economic growth, and the benefits it brings, continue.”

The council said the fund will be replenished by contributions from the Community Infrastructure Levy and New Homes Bonus, paid as developments outlined in the district’s Local Plan take place.

A spokesman for the council said Cabinet made it clear the decision would not result in an increase of housing allocation in the Local Plan. Developers will continue to be required to demonstrate that any developments not included in the Local Plan will not increase the amount of nitrogen deposits.