Major Hailsham development for 272 new homes approved
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On Thursday (June 22), Wealden District Council’s Planning Committee South approved a reserved matters application seeking permission to build 272 homes on a parcel of land between Ersham Road and Station Road.
The proposals come as part of the wider Cuckoo Fields development, a 400-home scheme which was granted outline planning permission in March 2020. The first phase of that development, comprising 128 homes, has already been approved.
While approved, the committee gave serious consideration to delaying their decision in hopes of securing more information about the effect of the development on the local water infrastructure.
Proposing a deferral, Cllr David White (Ind) said: “We clearly have a direction in the saved policy which allows us to go back to the infrastructure providers and ask for a programme of delivery for improvements.
“Now I believe that to be necessary because both Southern Water and South East Water have acknowledged that part of the problem has arisen as a result of the growth they are being asked to accommodate.
“Yes, they talk about increased demand and yes [they] talked about a heatwave and the fact we’ve got a hot period, but of course that’s a contributory factor. The other contributory factor has to be growth and you cannot ignore it.”
Cllr White later clarified that he felt the deferral should be on limited grounds, specifically whether Southern Water had any concerns about the developer’s surface water drainage plans.
Officers advised against this potential deferral, however, saying the issue would be covered by planning conditions. In short, Southern Water would have to be content with the plans for the scheme to go ahead.
Officers also warned that a deferral would feed into an issue the council has been facing at recent appeals. This issue, officers said, was around the council’s housing land supply, a measurement linked with government housing targets which feed into the weighing of a planning balance.
According to planning officers, developers, hoping to gain some advantage, have been arguing at appeal for the council’s housing land supply figure to be reduced in light of some recent high profile deferrals of reserved matters schemes. A further deferral would strengthen this argument, officers warned.
This advice saw concerns raised by committee members, who argued the potential for appeals should not impact on their decision-making on specific schemes.
Cllr Andrew Wilson (Lib Dem) said: “The threat of an appeal, in my view, shouldn’t be held over our heads as a reason to approve planning applications that we do not consider to be appropriate.
“Now, I’m not saying this is one of them, actually there are a lot of things in this particular application I quite like, but the drainage and the foul water drainage in particular is an issue and I think we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t give it its due weight in the context of the full application.
“I don’t think it is asking a lot to be certain that the sewage problem [is] not contributed to by a decision we make in this room today.”
Ultimately, however, the committee felt their concerns could be addressed through the conditions.