Wealden shapes up for the future

New housing in Wealden
New housing in Wealden

The shape and scale of housing and business development in Wealden towns and villages has now been firmed up.

But major changes in the way ‘roof taxes’ are collected and spent could see money raised from schemes in one community spent on projects many miles away.

The changes have been outlined by Wealden’s planning chief David Phillips who explained the Government’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a new way of raising money from developers to pay for vital ‘big ticket’ projects. Where it differs from the former Section 106 agreements (these will still continue in a limited form) is that there will be an agreed schedule of fees per square metre of floor space built so major projects can be costed and planned.

But the money raised must be allocated to strategic education, greenspace, health care, library, waste and transport schemes across the District - not necessarily in the community which has borne the development. As an indication, developers of the average 90 square metre three-bedroom house would have to pay £10,000 into the scheme.

The only way towns and villages can be sure of recouping a percentage of CIL funds is to have a Neighbourhood Plan in place. Such a Plan means they could receive a ‘top slice’ of 25 per cent of the money raised from development in their community. Villages that have no Neighbourhood Plan will only receive 15 per cent. So far, Mr Phillips explained, only a handful of Neighbourhood Plans are being progressed - and each can prove a long-winded process, including a compulsory referendum. If a developer lodges an application before the Plan is in place, then only the lower sum is applicable.

Cabinet member Ann Newton said: “From next week people have the chance to view this change, as well as detailed maps and descriptions of where development is scheduled to take place across Wealden.” These include land at Jarvis Brook and South East Crowborough and the controversial 1,000 dwelling, employment and education space south west of Uckfield.

A series of public exhibitions has been organised throughout the District manned by officers who will be on hand to answer questions. People are invited to express their views.

David Phillips explained that unlike former consultations, opinions expressed will be thoroughly considered by a Government planning inspector not just the local authority.

Regarding the Ashdown Forest 7km ‘no development’ ruling, Mr Phillips urges anyone with a scheme in mind to ‘come in and talk to us. ‘ Although there was opposition, he said the ruling also received support.