East Sussex village residents angered by as housing plans that threaten to destroy area’s 'natural beauty'

Residents in Heathfield are incensed by plans to build houses in Vines Cross, which they believe will destroy the area’s ‘rural character’.
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Housing developer Kember Loudon Williams submitted plans to Wealden District Council in February last year for 15 new homes in the East Sussex hamlet.

The proposals include nine four-bedroom houses, a couple of two-bedroom houses and 4 one-bedroom maisonettes on the junction of Ballsocks and Foords Lanes.

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More than 70 residents gathered at a meeting organised by the Vines Cross Community Association (VCCA) last week to hear about the plans.

More than 70 residents gathered at a meeting organised by the Vines Cross Community Association (VCCA) to hear about the plans and many voiced their disapproval to the developmentMore than 70 residents gathered at a meeting organised by the Vines Cross Community Association (VCCA) to hear about the plans and many voiced their disapproval to the development
More than 70 residents gathered at a meeting organised by the Vines Cross Community Association (VCCA) to hear about the plans and many voiced their disapproval to the development

Many voiced their disapproval to the development, with 50 sending letters of disapproval to the council, claiming it would destroy the rural character of their homes, and put the nearby Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at risk.

Marian Parkyn, Chairman of the VCCA, said: “This development would change the rural character of Vines Cross for ever. If the planning application were to be granted by Wealden District Council (WDC) it would mean many more vehicles on country lanes that cannot cope with the current levels of traffic.

"There are real safety implications for residents and a threat to the local environment.”

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Kember Loudon Williams say the mix of dwellings sizes and the provision of a children’s play space near the road junction will ensure the development has a focal point which benefits the wider area.

Locals are also concerned about the threat to the animals and plants High Weald Area.Locals are also concerned about the threat to the animals and plants High Weald Area.
Locals are also concerned about the threat to the animals and plants High Weald Area.

In its application, the developer said it has considered the houses’ design carefully to ensure that there are no adverse impacts upon neighbours.

The company says the ‘local vernacular-style buildings’ will include a mix of brick and tile hanging with gabled and hipped roofs.

Their applications claims the development adds a ‘modest addition’ of 15 houses, which would present a development in scale with the rest of the village.

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Wealden District Council joined a number of Sussex local authorities in cutting or delaying housebuilding projects, after prime minster Rishi Sunak dropped plans to impose mandatory housebuilding targets in December 2022.

However, Vines Cross resident Lucy Atabey and Lewes District councillors warned that the Government’s U-turn on housing was no guarantee that planning applications would decrease.

Lucy said: “It is a war of attrition – even where local people are successful in having a planning application rejected, developers often alter their plans, reapply and take their case through a costly appeal process.

"Every objection to a planning application counts but residents must be vigilant and keep up the pressure.”

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Lucy says residents are concerned about many issues – including road safety, light pollution and flooding risks, as well as worries about the threat to the animals and plants in the High Weald Area.

In Kember Loudon Williams’ planning application, it states the site is just outside the AONB, the boundary of which follows Foords Lane and Nettlesworth Lane and relates to land north of these roads.

However, resident Mark Humphries says the area’s infrastructure is already under huge pressure and will not be able to withstand this new development, regardless of where it is built.

Mr Humphries said: "It is well known that the local sewage treatment works is unable to cope with the current demands on it. The potential for flooding and water pollution from this proposed development is huge and a real red flag for the AONB.”