Long-awaited proposals for major housing development in Battle are approved

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Long-awaited proposals for a major housing development in Battle have been given the go ahead by Rother planners.

On Thursday (October 10), Rother District Council’s planning committee approved an outline application to build up to 220 homes at the Blackfriars site near Battle – land partly owned by the council which has been set aside for housing for many years.

The committee also gave full planning permission for the construction of a “spine road” between The Spinney and Harrier Lane, which would effectively connect Marley Lane and Hastings Road.

While set aside for housing for some time, the proposals had seen concerns raised by a number of residents, a point raised during the meeting by ward councillor Kevin Dixon (Lib Dem, South Battle and Telham).

He said: “We have got to recognise that many residents do not want this development, particularly those who live alongside the site. Despite this being on the cards for some time, it is still not particularly popular.

“So what benefits can we get for Battle, for the town, to make it better for everyone and connectivity. 

“Access to the [railway] station is the one crucial part of this application. It is so vital for the future connectivity with less reliance on using cars, that people living on this site can get direct access to the station. 

“The most important part for us is to make sure there is space left for the possible link, the probable link, to the station.

Cllr Dixon also expressed a desire to see better bus services in the area and for money from the development used to improve infrastructure in Battle. 

He said: “While it is not entirely popular in Battle – new housing never is, is it – but we are going to get 35 per cent affordable housing, which is fantastic.

“We know it is coming and we can’t stop it, so lets make the best of it we can.”

Officers also said developers will be required to provide details of this access to the railway station (by pedestrians and cyclists) as part of the conditions.

The committee also heard that the details of the site layout had yet to be approved.

Residents’ concerns were raised by councillors Kathryn Field and Vicki Cook, who both represent the neighbouring ward of North Battle, Netherfield and Whatlington.

Cllr Field said: “This is going to have a huge impact on the town. This isn’t popular but there is a kind of resigned acceptance about the place.

“The important thing, as Cllr Dixon said, is to get this right.”

In light of this, Cllr Field said she had concerns about the road safety of the spine road and said she would want to see a roundabout built as part of it.

Concerns raised by residents also included fears over traffic in the area, impact on the High Weald AONB and overdevelopment of the site.

Following a short discussion the application was approved by the committee. Details of the housing scheme were only approved in outline and will require further planning permission at a later date.

Last year, Rother District Council was awarded £3.25m of government funding in an effort to ‘kickstart’ the building process.

The majority of this funding was set aside for the development of the new road included in the application.

The council is the largest of four landowners at Blackfriars and, as such, the development is expected to have a higher than average number of affordable homes as a result.

According to the council, previous attempts to develop the land have been unsuccessful  due to lack of agreement between the landowners over the value of the land, as well as complex ground conditions and the need for costly road infrastructure.

But, in an effort to move ahead with the plans, the council has now entered into a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with the three other landowners, with all parties agreeing to allow site access during any road construction work.

Huw Oxburgh, Local Democracy Reporting Service