Seven km Forest rule stays says Inspector

Graze heath
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Wealden’s controversial development strategy, which includes 1,000 new homes to the west of Uckfield, is sound a Government inspector says.

The report, following Inspector Michael Moore’s visit and the interim report shown to planners last month, contains no surprises for the council.

The new housing site near Uckfield must also accommodate more than 12,000 square metres of employment floorspace, education provision and 10,000 square metres of shop space.

The ruling that blocks any development within seven kilometres of the Ashdown Forest remains. Critics say the basis on which this restrictive option is retained is based on Wealden initially saying the Forest must be protected as a means of guarding against opportunistic bids by housing developers in the area.

Wealden had opposed the original housing figure of 11,000 new homes imposed by the former deputy prime minister in favour of the 9,600 now agreed.

The Inspector said ‘mitigation measures’ should be required for windfall development within the boundary flung around the Forest which includes Uckfield and its business park.

But business people say the ruling is already stifling growth, with examples such as a woman being refused consent to create a workshop in Maresfield where adults with learning difficulties could learn to frame pictures, vital improvements to the Ashdown Forest Centre itself and a new village hall for Buxted.

The Inspector accepts that the council should work with appropriate partners ‘to ensure that otherwise acceptable development is not prevented from coming forward by the absence of acceptable mitigation.” He also agreed the council should continue to investigate the impact of nitrogen so that its effects can be understood.