Stone Cross housing development turned down for second time

Wealden planners have reaffirmed a decision to refuse a controversial housing development in Stone Cross.

Proposed layout of the Stone Cross development
Proposed layout of the Stone Cross development

On Thursday (November 4), Wealden District Council’s planning committee south again considered outline proposals for a 31-home development at Sharnfold Farm, off of Hailsham Road.

The application was previously discussed at a meeting in June, during which the committee also considered proposals to convert agricultural buildings on a different part of the site into a new business centre. The housing scheme was refused, but the business centre proposals were approved.

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The day after the meeting, however, two agricultural buildings at the heart of the site were named as Grade II listed properties by Historic England.

Council officers said this meant both schemes should be reconsidered in light of the new circumstances, as not doing so could leave the decision open to legal challenge. 

Even so, officers had still recommended approval as “it would be possible to accommodate the quantum of development without harm to the significance of the listed buildings through development within their setting”.

This argument was reinforced by the developer’s planning agent Julian Black, who said: “All the professional and technical consultees — for example the highway authority, Highways England, the Environment Agency, the local lead flood authority, Southern Water, Natural England to name a few — are all accepting of the scheme. There are no professional issues outstanding.

“The council’s conservation officer has confirmed that the 31 houses as proposed can be accommodated without harm to the listed buildings and the listing does not change the recommendation for approval.”

However, Mr Black went on to say the developer would consider making further improvements, including a reduction in homes by “five or six” on the final scheme. This would require a deferral, officers said.

This failed to sway the committee, however, which felt any changes to the scheme should come back as a fresh application. 

After a short discussion, the scheme was refused on the same grounds as the previous scheme.

Those were: that the development would result in an unacceptable form of development at odds with the prevailing frontage development; and that the scheme would also represent greenfield incursion on land beyond the development boundary.

Officers again warned these arguments would likely not hold up at appeal, given the council’s lack of a five-year supply of housing land.

The business centre scheme was not considered at the meeting. 

Notably, the proposals had also been included as an element of a wider 400-home scheme, for which developers had sought a screening opinion last year.

For further information on the housing proposals see application reference WD/2020/2047/MAO on the Wealden District Council website. For details of the business centre see reference WD/2020/1994/MAJ and for the screening opinion see application reference WD/2020/6505/SO.