Residents organise protest and call for Wealden to halt building on green field sites

27th January

Uproar over the countryside around towns and villages such as Heathfield, Horam, Hellingly and Hailsham being turned into housing developments is reaching boiling point.

A member of the Save Wealden from Over Development Team Facebook page has set about organising a protest at the next Wealden District Council Planning meeting on Thursday 30th January at 10:30am.

Hailsham resident Carrieann Whittington said she is organising the protest so people “can stand united to protect our green spaces and the Pevensey Levels”.

She explains: “Wealden Planning Committee is voting on seven housing developments one of which is going to be built on the border of the Pevensey Levels. If you are passionate about protecting our wildlife and green spaces and our air quality please, please help us fight the Council and the developers.

“My main concerns are residents and their children having to endure months and months of dust dirt and fumes from the vans and builders’ lorries. As well as the countryside that will be lost, the wildlife has been significantly depleting since all the building started. I have been talking to people who say they don’t hear the cuckoos anymore.

“The Pevensey Levels are even more at risk if these developers are allowed to build on our remaining green spaces. We need to protect areas that provide the people with clean air and open spaces to walk through, sit and relax and take in the beauty of the rich, green surroundings and listen to bird songs.”  

Water is evident on development adjacent to The Cuckoo Trail in Hellingly

Greenfield developments off Station Road near The Cuckoo Trail in Hellingly are on the agenda at the meeting which could see another 500 homes built on top of the developments which are already under construction.

An area near the Cuckoo Trail in Hellingly. Work has already started to remove trees

In total seven major developments are being considered and the approval of 1,542 houses – all on greenfield sites.

Hellingly residents like others in the area are worried about the drainage system being unable to cope in an area that is already prone to flooding, increased traffic through the village and loss of wildlife habitat. Other concerns include lack of services such as schools, doctors and dentists.

Having moved to her home 18 years ago, Horam resident Lucy Ataby is dismayed that the view from her back garden which was once green fields is of a building site for 123 dwellings.

The view from Lucy’s home before the building started

She said: “It was a very rural, quiet road which was one of the reasons we chose to live here. Now we have lorries and tankers visiting regularly to deal with ground water and sewage issues. Sitting in the garden is no longer peaceful but there are other issues such as light pollution from new street lighting which seems in contradiction with Wealden’s dark skies policy.  What’s happening doesn’t seem to fit with Wealden declaring a climate emergency either.”

Lucy is also concerned about the planning inspector report and particularly, she says, her criticism that the data gathered for the Habitats Regulations Assessment is flawed.

Horam housing development
The view from Lucy’s bedroom window

“The Horam site next to my house is marshy and wet which doesn’t just bring consequences for the buyers – it just means the water will be moved somewhere. We fought the development for three years but, at the end of the day, money talks and you can’t blame landowners for wanting to cash in.”

The news of the protest follows the release of an audit by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) this week saying that the design of new housing developments is overwhelmingly mediocre, or poor, and that one in five of 140 developments examined should have been refused.

This followed the news that Planning Inspector Louise Nurser had rejected Wealden’s Local Plan because, according to CPRE, it placed too much emphasis on the natural environment. The Council has said it will not be challenging the planning inspector’s view.

A spokesperson for CPRE added: “So, with the Council’s Ashdown Forest habitat regulations now in tatters, developers across the land will be celebrating an unprecedented building frenzy in one of the South East’s most beautiful and unspoiled areas… threatening wildlife habitats and cancelling out all Wealden District’s carbon targets for the foreseeable future. Rest assured that CPRE Sussex will be challenging both the Inspector’s ruling… and the Council’s compliance.”

A Crowdfunder is being organised to raise money a Judicial Review of the inspector’s findings with full support of CPRE and others.

SWOT Member David Radtke asks: “Where is the logic in building thousands of houses in South Hailsham which is on the edge of a flood plain and already prone to flooding? This is only going to get worse with climate change. In light of the Climate Emergency declared by Wealden, this policy of house building in or adjacent to a flood zone must surely be questioned by our elected councillors, along with the other effects that building on such a scale will have on congestion, pollution and climate change.”

A spokesperson for Wealden District Council said: “We are aware of the calls from CPRE for Wealden residents to attend the meeting of Planning Committee South (PCS) on Thursday 30 January in protest of housing development in the district.

“The majority of applications on the agenda have already been resolved to grant planning permission by this Committee. These applications return to PCS only to remove the mitigation measures and restrictions placed upon them prior to the decision made by the Planning Inspector on the Council’s Draft Local Plan.

“The Committee will not be considering any additional evidence or information in order to revise the decisions already made. Members of the public are of course welcome to attend the meeting, however only those registered to speak prior to the meeting may address the Committee.