Owner defends Battle woodland development

Project manager Ms Worth and owner Mrs MacDuff pictured at the new development site off Telham Lane. SUS-151113-140857001
Project manager Ms Worth and owner Mrs MacDuff pictured at the new development site off Telham Lane. SUS-151113-140857001
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The owner behind the Hammonds development in woodland near Battle has defended her plans after criticism from residents.

Mrs Macduff hopes to build a forest school, boutique holiday let and provide horticultural jobs to those struggling to find work at her site.

The Hastings-based businesswoman said she did not expect so much opposition to her proposals in woods off Telham Lane.

“I appreciate it’s going to be controversial to some degree,” she said.

“I suppose I hadn’t really appreciated quite how controversial in that we had spoken to some of the councillors beforehand, social services, schools and educationalists to make sure what we are is sound as a project.

“I think a lot of it is people see a planning application going in and automatically panic or worry.

“I’ve seen people say it’s going to be like Alton Towers or a playground or an amusement park, which it’s not.

“But we have spoken to our neighbours where possible to keep them up-to-date and well-informed.

“I’m very passionate about the woodland and feel frustrated as I can’t understand why people would take offence but at the same time, we’re they’re new neighbour and we’re the unknown, ‘it’s nice, but please don’t do it next door to me.”

Battle Town cllr Kevin Dixon believes residents were very concerned about the development.

The planning application was also withdrawn last week but Mrs Macduff said this is to sort out issues over access.

“We’ve withdrawn currently because we want to get a few other things sorted out in terms of the access,” she said.

“With the planning permission we already have, everything that has been done here has been in line with that.

“I wanted to give everybody the grand plan because to me it all knits together and we couldn’t do one thing without the other.

“So perhaps it was shocking to some people when we submitted our application because it seemed to be like bang, there it all is.

“But I suppose I’m very much that kind of person in that I didn’t want to hid anything or sneak anything in or do anything without getting the right permission.

“And I thought we may as well tell everybody what we’re here to do, we’re hear to do the holiday lets, which we’ve already got permission for, but we’d rather the wider community enjoyed it and we’d like to run a forest school and activities for all demographics.

Mrs Macduff plans to be as ethical and eco-friendly as possible with their own power source, total disabled access and proper forest management.

She wants to offer the forest school to schools during term time, as well as providing a minibus and all of the equipment.

The business woman believes getting children into the environment can help them engage in all manner of subjects.

Project manager Ms Worth was hired to oversee the scheme and she also hoped it would have a better reception than it has.

“We could’ve come in and not spoken to the neighbours and done things for a bigger profit which is what somebody potentially could come and do, if we can’t do what we want to do,” she said.

“But Mrs Macduff was so insistent on the community and the outreach and for me, it goes against the profit.

“So I really want to stress that this land is for everyone in the community to use whether it’s young people, elderly people, people with surplus income or people who don’t, it’s across the board.

“Everything we want to do is all-inclusive and everything where possible is full disabled access.”

“We foresaw letting the gates open, inviting everyone in, having a nice BBQ and it’s just like, ‘oh we thought everyone would love it’.

“We want people to come in and explain to them because we’re so passionate about it and we feel like it would be so nice to have everyone here and do some open days.

“I think it’s just a lack of knowledge as it would be really helpful if people could just have all the facts and then make a decision. But we appreciate it’s not always going to be everyone’s cup of tea.”

One of the first things to be tackled was the path and some residents have raised concerns about it being ‘over-engineered’.

It had to be stabilised and resurfaced to allow emergency vehicles to go to the lodge and back.

Mrs Macduff said this is natural as it is all people can see so far but promises it will look much different when it is done.

“When you do any works, it looks like the entrance to the M25 at the minute, I don’t dispute that, but we’re not going to leave it like that,” she said.

“But to do work you have to do a little bit of disruption.

“I think a lot of the uproar from the neighbours came about when the access was started because they would have seen it being properly started underneath and they would have seen the tarmac looking like the bypass, but it’s engineered for safety.”

To contact the developers with any of your queries email .

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