Parish says 'no' to 235 Heathfield homes scheme

View from the Vines Corner site
View from the Vines Corner site

Two applications to build new homes in Heathfield have been recommended for refusal by members of the Parish Council’s planning committee on September 26..

Residents living near potential sites of both schemes packed the village’s Community Centre to hear members explain in detail why such a large imposition of new homes close to a prominent, rural ridge would place unacceptable burdens on the town’s infrastructure and breach countryside ‘non development’ conditions.

The Vines Corner scheme would have delivered 215 new homes, 35 per cent affordable, to land close to Marklye Lane. The Parish Council has now reported its objections to Wealden District Council (WDC) where the final decision will be made.

On behalf of members, Parish Clerk Diana Francis reported her council objects to the application ‘and considers the development to be inappropriate in the AONB and out of character with the locality.’

“The development would set a precedent in the area, increase the possibility of flooding and danger from increased traffic in an area already suffering from congestion and road safety issues.”

The second site at Parklands, Burwash Road would have delivered 20 new homes. Once again Mrs Francis explained Parish objections. It was considered over-development and inappropriate within the AONB.

Concerns were also raised about increased traffic and road safety issues in this congested area and, once again, lack of infrastructure, mentioning once again schools and doctors.

The decision was welcomed by residents although people understand that Parish Council objections are only one of the issues that will affect a final decision.

The new plans, they understand, must also be set into context against a scheme to build 600 new homes within the walls of the Heathfield Park estate. This proposal is being informally presented to the parish at a meeting on October 10 and will also be put before town groups and schools for consideration. Under the District’s Local Plan ruling, Heathfield must absorb an extra 600 new homes.

More than 50 letters of objection have already been presented to WDC concerning the Vines Corner scheme; many from neighbours who feel the exposed position of new housing would be clearly visible from Mayfield to the north.

Gina Knight of Ridgeway Close wrote: “Heathfield is one of the main ridges of the High Weald. One of the very few areas of dark sky in an AONB.

Also peace and tranquility with far reaching views. Housing would destroy all that. To build would have an enormous effect on the landscape, wildlife and congestion of a main arterial road, which is already very heavy at peak times. Emergency services would be challenged to respond quickly.”

And in site two, she writes: “Privacy would be lost to residents adjoining the scheme, combined with the loss of the peacefulness and dark sky that is current. I believed that Wealden’s policy was, placing a ‘high value on protecting the countryside.’ This area is one of the most rural in England; don’t destroy it.”

Colin Harwood from Marshlands Lane also objected. He believes the development will cause considerable damage to wildlife habitats and scar the landscape ruining a precious view of the High Weald for miles around.

He said: “The AONB status of this area should be a major factor in deciding against these proposals. The additional strain on health and education provision will be immense and where are the jobs for all these newcomers? Heathfield is a small country town."

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