Liberal Democrats call for review of Wealden planning decision

Deanland Wood Park. Photo copyright Google
Deanland Wood Park. Photo copyright Google

Sussex Liberal Democrats are calling for a council planning decision to be reviewed by Government, saying it is 'a kick in the teeth for local residents'.

The calls come after Wealden District Council approved an application to extend the Deanland Wood mobile home park near Golden Cross, despite planning officers recommending the proposals be refused as it doesn't fit with local development plans.

In response Kelly-Marie Blundell and Chris Bowers, who are the Liberal Democrats’ prospective parliamentary candidates for Lewes and Wealden, say the decision should be reviewed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Jarvid.

Ms Blundell said: "While elected representatives can and do choose to decline planning officers' advice, they should have good reason to do so.

“When planning officers say a proposed development is against the district’s policy and recommend it be refused, there has to be a very good reason to go against it, and from the statements given by Conservative councillors, it's not clear there is. That is why I have written to the head of planning asking to refer the case to the Secretary of State for review.”

In their report, council planing officers said the proposal, to add another 26 mobile homes to the 397 unit site, would be 'an unsustainable form of development when set against the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)' as it would cause landscape harm to a greenfield site.

The original application saw eight letters of objection and 17 letters of support from local residents.

Chris Bowers, who stood for the Lib Dems in Wealden at the 2010 general election, said: “This is a crazy decision, and a kick in the teeth for local residents. Planning officers are under so much pressure to find land for housing, so when they strongly recommend against expanding this site, you can be sure there are strong reasons for rejecting this proposal."

“I wonder what former Tory councillor Keith Whitehead thinks of this. He was Wealden’s head of sustainable development 10 years ago, yet there’s absolutely nothing sustainable about an application that will bring even more cars down a narrow country lane to a maverick development in the middle of nowhere.”

In response to Mr Bower's comment, Mr Whitehead, who is one of the directors of Deanland Wood Park Ltd, said: "This application was properly advertised and consulted upon and called to the committee for decision. We are still a democracy, and councilors are elected by the public to make decisions even against officers' recommendations.

"To put this application in perspective, Deanland Wood Park is a Park Homes Estate of some 397 homes that has been in the same family ownership for over 60 years.

"This is a very small application by comparison and is strategically located close to the central hub of the park with it's social centre with doctors surgery, stores and post office, pub, bowls green and residents swimming pool. This makes it sustainable.The country lane is a wide lane to enable the bus routes that serve the Park and the industrial estates in the same road.

"The reference to my membership of Wealden District Council is irrelevant as I had nothing to do with this application and I did not even attend the committee meeting in the public gallery.

"Finally, Deanland Wood Park is a small business in the countryside which has a high demand for its homes, homes that free up traditional houses in the district to help with the overwhelming need for housing. Deanland Park needs to gently expand to take part in this overwhelming need."

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