Wealden District Council is consulting on a new local plan proposal which suggests building nearly 20,000 new houses across the district (almost a 30 per cent increase).
Furthermore, they plan to focus this massive housebuilding program in the south of the district, leaving the leafy northern areas untouched.
Parish councils and residents are now discussing the potential impact and responding to Wealden.
However, most have the same fundamental reservations and fears about the lack of associated infrastructure and environmental impact (including loss of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) especially as many of them already have major infrastructure issues or have already lost AONB and farmland to recent housing developments.
So why the immense increase in houses proposed by Wealden?
Neighbouring district councils (Eastbourne, Lewes, Tunbridge Wells etc) are proposing far fewer houses.
Wealden have ‘a vision’ to bring circa 600/annum new jobs to Wealden and increase in-migration to 1,350 people per annum to resource those jobs. However, there are no supporting plans or evidence to show how they will create these jobs or fund the necessary improvements to infrastructure.
With dwindling central government funding to district councils, the government’s new homes bonus is a useful supplement to the council’s revenue stream as will be the increased council tax revenues from the new houses (Wealden are about to spend £6m on a new corporate headquarter extension and refurbishment).
Wealden already have an infrastructure funding shortfall of £73m and the level of new infrastructure funding required to support this new plan is unknown but involves major and very expensive projects like re-routing of the A27 and the A22.
There are no agreed plans or costings currently in place to achieve these aims.
Wealden expect to rely on other authorities like East Sussex County Council and the NHS to use their budgets for the required new infrastructure developments – but they in turn have had their budgets slashed.
In relation to school places in Ninfield, Wealden advice is ‘send them to school in Bexhill’ forgetting the large scale development happening in Pebsham/North Bexhill!
Right now, developers are buying up farmland around our villages and towns.
A headlong rush to develop these new houses has already commenced despite the end date of the plan being 2037!
Once the plan is out there Wealden will be unable to phase these developments to allow for infrastructure to be put in place before they are completed.
With the National Planning Framework ‘presumption in favour to develop’, these developers know that Wealden have already set precedents which will make stopping development proposals near impossible for fear of expensive developer legal appeals.
The bottom line is that building on this scale is just not needed in this part of the country.
We do need some affordable housing for our youngsters but that is not what we will get.
People all across the area can expect more traffic on pot-hole infested roads, bigger class sizes in schools in temporary accommodations and booking of GP appointments over weeks instead of days.
They can also expect major developments on their countryside morphing into towns through over-expansion and ribbon developments.
What a sad loss to all of us in this lovely part of Sussex.
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