Second look for Heron’s Ghyll development in light of local plan

Location plan of the proposed development
Location plan of the proposed development

Wealden planners are to take a fresh look at proposals to build houses at the former medical centre in Heron’s Ghyll in light of the authority’s new local development plan.

The proposal, to build five new homes at the Temple Grove site in Uckfield Road, had already been considered by planners at a meeting in April last year, where it was approved subject to legal agreement.

As this legal agreement was not completed, however, planning officers say the application remains ‘live’ and should be reconsidered in light of the changes within the emerging Wealden Local Plan.

In a report to the committee, a council planning spokesman said: “That plan has gathered more weight since the April 2018 meeting.

“Whilst most unfortunate, for the applicant and agent, it is nonetheless appropriate to bring this case back to committee to be apprised in the context of the emerging strategy and policies.

“The development plan has a statutory status as the starting point for decision making and proposed development that conflicts with the Local Plan should be refused unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

“It has been demonstrated that the residential development proposed is contrary to Local Plan policies.”

The report goes on to recommend planning permission be withheld, as the scheme is now considered to be in an ‘unsustainable location’.

Part of this concern is related to vehicle movements and their impact on the Ashdown Forest.

When the application was first considered, Wealden allowed developers to ‘trade’ the number of vehicle movements a site has when putting forward a proposal.

In this case developers were able to successfully argue the houses should be considered sustainable as they would result in fewer car trips than when the site was used as a medical centre.

Since then, however, the council has published its Ashdown Forest Transport Model, which means vehicle movements are now calculated in a different way.

While this new model – alongside the emerging Wealden Local Plan – allows for some new development within the Ashdown Forest, it requires any application to be policy compliant.

The report said: “Based on the modelling from the submission plan there would be a resultant increase in trips …from the proposal which unless mitigated for would cause a likely significant effect to the integrity of the Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

“This proposal is not policy compliant and therefore cannot draw on this allowance.

“As such there is no ability to mitigate for the harm and the application is directed to refusal under the habitat regulations.”

However the report also concedes that the proposals would cause no harm to the setting of listed building  or any adverse impact on residential amenity. It would also not create any parking or highway safety concerns, the report said.

The application is set to be considered by Wealden District Council’s planning committee north on Thursday (May 30).