Controversial plans to build 16 homes in Sedlescombe were approved despite more than 200 objections – with the local councillor threatened over it.
Rother District Council planning committee member Tony Ganly said he was shaken and unable to discuss the plans after being ‘abused and intimidated’ over the phone by a member of the public.
Planning officers suggested refusing the application on Brede Lane because it was not allocated for housing in the nearly-finished neighbourhood plan at the meeting today (Thursday, October 13).
But councillors decided the need for housing, the ‘generous’ offering of open space and land for the school and the ‘limited’ impact on the landscape were reasons enough to approve it.
“What I’m totally mystified at is why did this not become a part of the neighbourhood plan,” Cllr Mary Barnes said.
“It seems to be a complete nonsense to not help the village get what it wants and not to have the security of this piece of land forever. I just don’t understand it.”
Sedlescombe Parish Council, 214 people and planning officers opposed the application on the grounds the neighbourhood plan had allocated the field as green space and had other areas for housing.
Cllr Sue Prochak said going against the neighbourhood plan would undermine all others and send a negative message to parishes that Rother would just ignore them.
Cllr Ganly said before the discussion he had been ‘subjected to a tirade’ of verbal abuse and intimidation by a member of the public to try and force him to refuse the application.
The Ewhurst and Sedlescombe councillor felt he could not make an objective judgement on the application after being called five times over Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
“On Tuesday night, a member of the public phoned me and subjected me to a tirade of bullying and intimidation,” he said.
“He demanded that I vote against this application and warned me to be very careful of what I said.
“When I put the phone down I was shaking. He called me three times that night and again yesterday morning.”
Cllr Tom Graham also abstained from the deliberations as he felt he was affected by the ‘attack’.
Developers MJH Executive Homes wants to slice up the field into three sections – the western section for the school, the middle area for public open space, and the eastern bit for housing.
Some councillors believed this was a generous offer, as well as the six affordable housing units, but objectors claimed the school land is too sloped to be of much use and the whole area should be open, with other fields allocated for housing in the plan which 88 per cent of the village agreed with.
The council’s lack of a five-year housing supply also swayed members into believing the homes were needed and it was an ideal place for them.
Cllr Prochak claimed it was undemocratic to go against the 214 objections and the several parish councils.
But Cllr Maurice Watson disagreed, saying the housing need outweighed the villagers’ concerns.
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