Residents launch campaign to save land from development

Pond Field
Pond Field

FAIRLIGHT Residents are fighting plans by Rother Council to turn an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the village into a housing estate.

More than 60 angry residents packed into the village hall when Fairlight Parish Council met recently and voted to reject the housing strategy plan.

Residents have formed an action group in a bid to protect the land from development.

The farmland, known locally as Pond Field, is outside the village’s designated development envelope. With its adjoining field it abuts National Trust Land overlooking the sea.

Leading the fight is retired chartered engineer Keith Jellicoe, who said: “The village’s Action Plan, prepared two years ago with Rother’s help, showed there was no demand for new houses in the village.

“A large percentage of residents here are over retirement age, we have no school, transport and roads into the village are poor and – above all – we have serious problems with flooding and sewage.

“The field was identified during the previous Government’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) when landowners/developers were asked to put forward sites suitable for the development of 6 or more houses.

“Although the Coalition Government have subsequently allowed Planning Authorities to determine final house build figures it is adamant that greater numbers are built and has relaxed planning regulations accordingly.”

“Fairlight has some serious flooding issues and building on that field is only going to exacerbate the problem,’ says another resident Kevin Cornwell whose house also abuts the field.

“A smaller scale development on a former market garden site has already proved difficult to progress because of drainage and sewage problems and concreting over more and more of the village can only make matters worse,” he says.

Residents claim Rother is hurrying its plans through and dumping houses in Fairlight while neighbouring villages have been left unscathed.

One objector Chris Lee, said: ‘Rother says it has identified a need in Fairlight for between nought and twenty new houses – but this field is 3.5 hectares and only the most naïve would believe that a developer will stop at twenty.” She added “Sadly, Rother’s track record for standing up to the demands of developers is dismal and this AONB field is likely to end up as a massive housing development if locals don’t take urgent action.”

Keith Jellicoe said: “The East Field Fairlight Action Group (EFFAG) of residents has been set up to prevent the destruction of the AONB and are encouraged by this vote and will work with the Parish Council to push for Rother to abandon plans to build on the field.

“They also want the District Council to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan for Fairlight as this would give residents some control over the size and scale of any future developments elsewhere in the village.”

Another stalwart opponent Nicky Frith said: “In 1980 I led the successful rejection of a housing development for this AONB field at a Public Inquiry which was upheld by Government thereby saving this fine rural and productive scene, and we must ensure it endures.”

Keith Jellicoe said: It seems an area of outstanding beauty and overcrowding affects on Village life doesn’t hold much impact to Rother nor the views of the majority of Fairlighters.

“It is obvious that once approval to build is given whatever size on this continuously farmed, luxuriant field it will be lost to a built environment affecting adjoining narrow, already very busy roads and the general peace and tranquillity of a well loved Village.