Two major Hailsham housing schemes given thumbs up

Plans for 400 homes being put forward by Gleeson and Rydon south of Hailsham
Plans for 400 homes being put forward by Gleeson and Rydon south of Hailsham

Outline proposals for two major developments totalling 620 homes near Hailsham have been approved by Wealden planners.

On Thursday (July 18), Wealden District Council’s planning committee south granted outline planning permission for a 400-home scheme on the Cuckoo Fields site off of Ersham Road and Station Road.

During the same meeting, the committee also granted outline planning permission for a 220-home development on land off of Mill Road, to be combined with a convenience store, open space and landscaping.

Both applications had been recommended for approval by council officers, who said they were considered acceptable within the emerging Wealden Local Plan.

Despite this a number of concerns were raised around the infrastructure required by such large developments – particularly when combined with other housing developments already approved in the area. 

Concerns around infrastructure included fears for extra pressure on nearby roads, the potential impact on schools and medical services as well as fears around the capacity of water and sewerage works.

These concerns had been raised by objectors during the application hearing, with several calling for the proposals to be deferred or rejected until the matter could be resolved.

But officers said the work to bring about these infrastructure improvements would be reliant on developers providing money through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), which cannot be charged until work begins.

Several committee members expressed frustration around this process, however.

Speaking on the Cuckoo Fields application, Cllr Stephen Shing (Independent Democrat, Lower Willingdon) said: “Today we are talking about many applications in Hailsham. Looking at the Local Plan all we want is for the infrastructure to come first, before the development.

“[We have been told] the infrastructure will come, but not until the beginning of the development. I think this is not on.”

The argument was raised again during the Mill Road application, which is east of a site already granted planning permission for 165 homes, in a statement from ward councillor Gavin Blake-Coggins (Lib Dem, Hailsham East). 

In his statement (which was read to the committee by Cllr Gareth Owen-Williams), Cllr Blake Coggins said: “To be told that infrastructure comes with development is a myth. 

“If it were true, then the Hailsham/Hellingly sports park would not have been withdrawn and specified sports finance would not have been misplaced.

“The development of an additional 400 homes in Mill Road does not have the infrastructure to support it.

“All the proposed housing developments in Hailsham East are being put forward to the committee on the basis of an assumed local plan not yet accepted as a true working document and if rejected by the inspector could cause untold misfortune to us all.”

Despite concerns around infrastructure pressures, both applications were granted outline planning permission on majority verdicts. 

The Cuckoo Fields proposal was granted with seven votes in favour to four against. The Mill Road application, meanwhile, was granted with seven votes in favour, with two against and two abstentions. 

As outline planning applications, developers will require further planning permission before work begins on the overall site.