A VITAL environmental protection rule will block future development in and around protected countryside such as the Ashdown Forest.
Wealden’s planning cabinet member Cllr Roy Galley pointed out: “The Habitats Directive means that additional growth in housing numbers, employment and community projects in and around the Forest, can only take place if such growth does not contribute to harmful nitrogen deposition caused by traffic movements.”
The only small-scale exceptions could be extensions or schemes necessary to the way the countryside works, such as farm shops. This means plans for new homes or business sites will come to a standstill around the Forest as far afield as north of Uckfield, Crowborough, Newick, Maresfield and the outskirts of Heathfield.
Cllr Galley explained: “A main message from our consultation was that people wanted to preserve their rural environment. It’s only in the last few years these regulations have been tested in law. This has a real impact on the Forest which is not just an AONB but a special conservation area and protected under international law. This was tested when an appeal against Wealden’s refusal to allow nine new homes in Fairwarp failed last year.
“The planning inspector made it clear the Forest must be protected. I can confirm there will be no new development within 400 metres of the Forest. Within seven kilometres you can develop but you must mitigate the impact. Existing schemes in the pipeline are allowed. Anything new is not, unless these rules apply. I make no apology for protecting our precious landscape.”
Maresfield Parish Council planning chairman Cllr Ken Ogden said: “The Forest will now be about 30 kilometres across. Ironically major schemes like Uckfield will still go ahead. This rule affects all new builds in the area and will inflict hardship on an already suppressed industry, the Government’s aim to stimulate the economy and create jobs.”