‘We have no say’ about Ridgewood store appeal

The site of the appeal. Photo by Ron Hill
The site of the appeal. Photo by Ron Hill

A planning appeal has sparked fears that big business is riding roughshod over the planning process - and there is not much local people can do about it.

Signet Planning has lodged an appeal against refusal of permission to build what was scheduled to be a small Morrisons supermarket in the car park of the Highlands Inn, Ridgewood. They are working on behalf of the Spirit Pub Company and PH Land and Developments.

Given the store group’s recent cutbacks it is by no means certain that Morrisons would occupy the store but once retail consent is given, the site could house any shop which fulfilled planning requirements.

Now people living and working nearby query the value and effectiveness of local democracy.

Jon Gothard, from Ridgewood Post Office, said: “Uckfield Town and Wealden District councils both refused the scheme. There was a three-day, 300-plus petition organised by Little Horsted Parish Council but now the applicants have gone direct to appeal and we only have until March 5 to respond.

“I want to make it quite clear that I am not opposed because I run a business; I am a local resident - I live over the shop - and I am concerned that my view, the views of my neighbours and the considered views of our planners and councillors could be overturned. We do not have a say. No-one wants this store.”

The original scheme drew hundreds of objections. Among reasons for Wealden’s refusal last year was proximity to two major roads and a busy roundabout where traffic builds up at peak times. Wealden members also said there was not enough parking space close to the store and the pub or space for service vehicles to park nearby. People also cited the Ashdown Forest seven-kilometre ‘no-build’ zone.

Wealden’s arguments in favour of a public hearing so people could air their views to a Government inspector were turned down. The Spirit Pub Company’s documents favouring the scheme said reasons given for refusal of planning consent were ‘without any legitimate planning basis and based on unsupported supposition and non-planning matters following an extensive anti-competition campaign’. They also accused Wealden of refusing the scheme ‘for political rather than planning reasons’.

The Gothard family are furious this line is being peddled, saying their concerns echo and support those of local families. To express your views e-mail: teamp13@pins.gsi.gov.uk quoting: APP/C1435/W/14/3001952 or visit: https://acp.planningportal.gov.uk/planninginspectorate