Planning policy in ‘disarray’

Ashdown Forest SUS-140226-090149001
Ashdown Forest SUS-140226-090149001

‘If you run a business in Wealden you cannot expand it’ - that’s the view of opponents to the council’s latest planning decision to extend the seven kilometre ‘no grow’ zone around the Ashdown Forest to 15 kilometres.

Wealden District Council has announced the cordon will be doubled in size after High Court judges overturned its original seven km ruling.

Chris Lawson of agents Lawson Commercial said: “You wonder why anyone wants to have a business here. This zone now extends to Gatwick, down towards Lewes and over to the Burgess Hill business park. They are getting their own back. This new ruling is a joke. The council is upset it lost the battle over the original rule. Buried in this new document is the instruction that people should invest in a dog gym, not walk on the Forest!”

Wealden says it is simply ‘taking into account a wider area up to around 15km from the Forest to assess for possible effects.’ This means planning applications will now be scrutinised to see if they place more ‘recreational pressure’ on the Forest - for example encourage people to drive there to walk, ride, visit tourist attractions or simply play ‘Poohsticks.’

But at almost the same time the council has given the green light to a scheme to build 103 new homes on the outskirts of Crowborough in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and not even in its own own Core Strategy, a decision which has prompted people to say its planning policy is in disarray.

Critics say the Forest is a thriving tourist destination supporting small businesses, overflown by incoming aircraft, supporting major routes to the airport, Crawley and the M23. And they point out that no other council close to the Forest has introduced a similar policy.

Wealden cabinet member Ann Newton said: “Progress we have now made is an opportunity to move forward with a range of smaller sustainable developments which are not reliant on building on greenfield sites close to the Forest. We have produced guidance to help applicants submitting suitable development in the wider Ashdown Forest area.”

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