Plea for urgent action to stop ‘speculative’ development across East Sussex

A slump in housebuilding is expected in the wake of the coronavirus emergencyA slump in housebuilding is expected in the wake of the coronavirus emergency
A slump in housebuilding is expected in the wake of the coronavirus emergency
Urgent action is needed to stop ‘speculative and unplanned development’ as a result of the coronavirus emergency, East Sussex council leaders have warned.

Work on many development sites across the county is at a standstill and housebuilding rates are expected to plunge.

Leaders of East Sussex’s main councils have written a joint letter to the Secretary of State pointing out with so much development on hold it is probable local plans will be considered out of date.

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This will make it harder to resist housing in unwanted and unsuitable locations.

The letter says: “It is important for the sustainable planning of our areas that our five year housing land supplies and the plan-led approach are not undermined by the reduction in housing delivery as a result of the current crisis, and that the development sector is encouraged to take a responsible approach towards delivering much needed housing in properly planned locations as soon as possible.”

In particular the letter asks Robert Jenrick to extend local plan review timescales, suspend or roll forward five-year land supply arrangements, acknowledge the lost supply during lockdown to avoid a surge of speculative applications, make changes to the housing delivery test, extend the life of existing planning consents by the period of the lockdown, request intervention by Homes England to support resumption of development on allocated sites as quickly as possible and incentives to social registered landlords to resume work on their sites.

The letter is signed by Zoe Nicholson (Lewes District Council), David Tutt (Eastbourne Borough Council), Kim Forward (Hastings Borough Council), Doug Oliver (Rother District Council), Bob Standley (Wealden District Council) and Keith Glazier (East Sussex County Council).

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It concludes: “We hope that you appreciate our concerns, and share our desire to ensure that certainty is provide to councils, the community and the development industry in order to provide the right homes at the right times in the right places and get sustainable housing delivery back on track through a properly plan-led approach.”

Emily O’Brien, cabinet Member for planning at Lewes, said: “It is inevitable that housing supply will be significantly lower than expected, meaning we are likely to fail the Housing Delivery Test and not be able to demonstrate a five-year supply of land for housing.

“If as a consequence our local plan is deemed out-of-date, it will harder to resist speculative and unplanned development and turn East Sussex and Brighton & Hove into a patchwork of poorly located building sites.

“We are calling on the Secretary of State to take a number of steps that will avoid these unwanted consequences and allow local authorities to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis with the integrity of local planning policies intact.”

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