New homes will be the ruin of Westham

Some of our members in Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth live in the village of Westham, where a planning application for 18 new homes (‘The Herons’) along the ancient Peelings Lane will be considered by Wealden District Council at its Planning Committee meeting on September 18.

he lane is the original main route through the village, the Roman lane that led to Pevensey Castle, the main route for smugglers taking their contraband out of Pevensey, and is part of the 1066 Walk, an important rural recreational route of international renown attracting many tourists to Westham, which has a 120 pitch camping site, several B&Bs, and a pub and restaurants, all providing income and jobs for villagers.

The lane also has many mature trees and hedgerows teeming with wildlife and wildflowers along most of its length.

Yet the new houses will destroy a significant amount of the natural and historic heritage of the lane, which residents and tourists alike appreciate greatly. The development will be outside the development boundary specified in the Local Plan. If ‘The Herons’ is granted permission, then the whole of the country edge on the north side of Peelings Lane is at risk of disappearing, effectively ruining the last country lane left in the village, damaging its rural character and destroying valuable habitats for local wildlife.

The developer claims ‘The Herons’ is needed because of a shortage of affordable homes, yet over 200 such homes, far more than is needed for Westham villagers, will be built a short stroll away towards Stone Cross, at the other end of Peelings Lane, which will also impact significantly upon the natural character of the lane.

Some 160 metres of the lane will be widened to accommodate the increased traffic, removing the wildflower verges and some of the hedgerow. The lane will become more of an urban road with increased traffic driving at higher speeds. The development site always floods in winter, is only 240 metres away from the Pevensey Levels RAMSAR site, and is part of the heritage landscape of Pevensey Castle, yet astonishingly the application has not been referred to Natural England, Environment Agency, Sussex Wildlife Trust, nor to English Heritage! All their views would be most relevant to such an application.

‘The Herons’, as a name for the development, is richly ironic as the disturbance it will create will prevent the wild herons that currently enjoy the site from hunting there and in the surrounding fields.

The failure of Pevensey & Westham councillors to oppose this application is very disappointing in view of the fact that over 95% of Westham villagers surveyed by the Westham Village Conservation Group registered their opposition.

‘The Herons’, and other such developments planned, effectively rates housing as a far greater priority than either the heritage assets of Westham village or the economic development of Westham itself, which depends crucially upon its tourist & hospitality industries for jobs and business.

We therefore urge Wealden District Council to reject the application and to draw a line in the sand against the destruction of a crucial part of the natural and historic heritage of Wealden.

Andrew Durling,

Co-ordinator,Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth