EV chargers, high-speed broadband and Habitat Mitigation Tariffs no longer required after Inspector’s report

31st January

With a protest beforehand and hardly a spare seat in the public gallery, yesterday’s planning meeting at Wealden District Council’s Hailsham offices was put under the spotlight.

Protestors outside the counci offices

The conditions included the Habitats Mitigation Tariff. The Habitats Regulations are the requirement to ensure no significant harm comes to any protected European site. Developers were previously required to pay a fee and any constraints relating to Ashdown Forest have also been removed. Protected sites include The Pevensey Levels and Ashdown Forest.

The meeting was held so councillors could vote on the removal of conditions that were part of previous planning applications submitted and agreed before Wealden’s Plan was thrown out by the planning inspector.

All the amendments, such as the removal of the requirement to have electric vehicle charging points incorporated into new homes, was voted through. Several councillors said they disagreed with the huge increase in development but had to vote for it. One new planning application was deferred.

Wealden District Council councillors

Cllr Howell Johanna Howell said: “We don’t want to build more houses in the area and we are very upset about housing we are being told to take on and the infrastructure problems. But if we refuse we will lose control of planning to central government. This is hard for us but we have to do some of what we are told. This way at least we can include some local conditions.”

Cllr Angela Snell added: “We are following national policy and we are bound by this. It’s only due to the planning inspector’s findings that we have had to come back today.”

There were several speakers from the general public at the meeting one of whom said that removing the mitigation tariff was in breach of the Habitat regulations and that the new developments were causing serious problems with surface water drainage.

Acting Head of Planning for Wealden District Council Chris Bending said: “The Council argued that growth should be limited and defended this in the Local Plan. But the Plan failed and the inspector said we were going too far and didn’t need things like car charging points. This is unfortunate but we don’t think we have sufficient grounds to challenge the inspector.”

The inspector also asked for the removal of the requirement for high-speed broadband.

But Chris Bending said there was hope on the horizon with the forthcoming Future Home Standards and that the council is writing to the Government to ask that developers are required to build more sustainably.