Masterplan to ‘accelerate’ delivery of Blackfriars housing scheme near Battle

The Blackfriars site near Battle. Picture: Google Earth
The Blackfriars site near Battle. Picture: Google Earth

Council bosses have backed plans to ‘accelerate’ a long-awaited housing development near Battle.

At a meeting on Monday (October 1), Rother District Council’s cabinet signed off on proposals to create a ‘masterplan’ intended to pave the way for development of the Blackfriars site.

According to council reports, the masterplan would be made up of a number of new studies, legal agreements and investigations, all intended to ‘accelerate’ the submission of a major planning application.

Cabinet members recommended that up to £1m be set aside to develop the plan, although the final decision on funding will be made at a full council meeting in the near future.

Several councillors welcomed the move, including Joyce Hughes (Con. – Bexhill Central). She said: “I’ve been on the council for some considerable time and – as my colleague on the far end who is the chairman of planning (Cllr Brian Kentfield) will realise – this is something that comes up quite frequently.

“Blackfriars has been haunting us for years and I’m so glad we have now got to the stage where it is going to happen, it really will happen. Thank god.  With a bit of luck we might even get an application in next year.”

The plans were also welcomed by Eleanor Kirby-Green (Con. – Darwell). She said: “I want to reiterate your words Cllr Hughes. I’ve heard the word ‘Blackfriars’ for years and years and years.

“It still comes up in my parish council meetings and anytime we talk about housing supply the question is always ‘what is happening with Blackfriars?’

“I’m absolutely delighted to be seconding this motion.”

The move to develop the master plan comes after Rother District Council was awarded £3.25m on a provisional basis by Homes England in an effort to ‘kickstart’ the housing plan.

The majority of this funding is expected to go towards the development of a new road system on the site. However a report on the plans warns that the funding could be withdrawn if Homes England is dissatisfied with the speed of the application process.

According to council reports, the site – located between Marley Lane and Hastings Road – has been set aside for a major housing development for several years but has yet to see work begin.

Half the site is owned by Rother District Council, with the remaining land split between three private landowners.

Officers say previous attempts to develop the land have been unsuccessful ‘principally’ due to lack of agreement between these four 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.

A decision on the funding of the masterplan is expected to be made at a full council vote in the near future.