East Hoathly housing development refused again

Controversial proposals for a major housing development in East Hoathly have been refused again by Wealden planners this week.

Friday, 26th February 2021, 3:39 pm

On Thursday (February 25), Wealden District Council’s planning committee south considered an outline application seeking permission to build up to 50 homes on land off of South Street.

There have been two previous proposals to develop the site in recent years – for up to 74 homes in 2018 and for up to 55 homes in 2019 – both of which were refused, primarily due to the site falling outside the East Hoathly development boundary.

While the 2018 decision was upheld at appeal, an appeal against the 2019 decision has yet to be fully settled – a matter which ward councillor Geoffrey Draper argued meant the current scheme could not be approved.

Cllr Draper said: “This application is under appeal as we speak. It is only seeking outline approval, but it offers no more substance and only more vagaries.

“It contains promises, but few certainties other than this; if we agree those 50 houses will be built and we will be faced with compromise and disappointment down the line.

“My fellow councillors, please refuse this application or at the very least defer it until many if the questions have been answered and the current appeal has been determined.”

As with the previous application, however, planning officers had recommended this latest application be approved, largely because they considered the council’s lack of a five-year supply of housing land outweighs the village’s development boundary.

They also argued the site made significant changes to the previously refused scheme so needed fresh consideration. In other words, it would be inadvisable to defer the scheme until the results came in for the previous appeal.

These arguments failed to sway the committee however.

While some argued in favour of deferring a decision until the results of the previous appeal came in, most were of the opinion that the site was still unacceptable for development – particularly when taken in combination with other housing schemes nearby. 

The first to call for refusal was Cllr Neil Cleaver (Lib Dem), who said: “I’m just shocked this has come back. 

“It may be five houses less, but with the 205 houses that have been approved [in East Hoathly] is the sewerage system going to cope? No it isn’t.”

The motion was backed by Cllr Johanna Howell (Con), who said: “I’m not entirely sure that I feel taking away five houses and sticking the attenuation pond close to an ancient woodland is actually going to change the matter particularly.”

She added: “What we could perhaps do, if Cllr Cleaver is minded, is say we don’t think that taking away the five houses is changed a great deal. There is a lack of definition for the site still and I don’t see that anything has changed from the previous refusal we have given.” 

While planning officers cautioned against refusal – with head of planning Stacey Robbins warning that the new application did constitute a material change – committee members largely felt confident that the scheme should be refused.

It was refused on grounds mirroring the previous refusal – including the potential impact on the character and appearance of the area.

For further information on the proposals see application reference WD/2020/1848/MAO on the Wealden District Council planning website.