Wealden planning officers have given a hesitant thumbs-up for the development of hundreds of new homes for Hailsham.
The planning application for 238 homes was given outline approval with an array of conditions, despite appeals from residents and councillors who believe areas of protected land at nearby Pevensey Levels could be at risk.
The land off Marshfoot Lane is set for the development which consists of 35% of affordable housing, but there are concerns local infrastructure cannot cope with the expected 500-750 vehicle movements per day from the development.
More than fifty local residents turned out to the planning meeting at the Wealden office in Hailsham this morning (6th December), many to express their anger over the plans.
Marshfoot Lane resident, Ray Beer told the committee; “The surface of Marshfoot Lane is destroyed every year and the congestion is terrible. Queues of cars for the local school, sports events at weekends, and 200 metres of parked cars with no passing points encourage anti-social driving. This development will affect local residents in a very poor way.”
Many were concerned about the proposed single road to enter the estate from Marshfoot Lane. The current poor repair of the road, along with high traffic levels were raised and backed by Wealden and Town Councillors.
However, there were extraordinary scenes at the meeting after it was revealed that all the national environment agencies have given the green light to the plans despite the appeals from local people and potential problems with access and its proximity to the Pevensey Levels, which is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI). The Local Housing Plan outlines affordable housing in the town is desperately needed and if councillors refused the application, there would be wider problems and implications for the town according to the committee.
Applicant, Damian Turner told the committee; “There’s no technical or policy reasons why this application should be thrown out. The proposed 84 affordable homes will contribute to requirements of the local plan, and councillors should not deny those on waiting list.”
He added; “More than 500 jobs will be created during construction and £7m spent in local economy during the building works.”
Councillor Chriss Triandafyllou told the committee; “This is the worst planning application I’ve ever seen. This will undoubtably add to pollution levels, it’s the council’s responsibility to protect the environment and people in the town. We’ve spent eight years trying to improve the town centre, most shops that were empty now have tenants and most of this will be destroyed if these plans are approved.”
A spokesperson from Hailsham Town Council commented; “There’s strong objection from Hailsham Town Council. The objections reflect views of residents and all of the council. We’re extremely concerned of traffic gridlock and ecological disaster. I encourage the refusal of this plan.”
The Chair concluded that due to the solid reports from the environmental agencies, Wealden Council has no grounds to refuse the application. It was given the go-ahead with a number of strict conditions. These include a more detailed plan about the use of Marshfoot Lane, drainage and timings around deliveries to the site. There are also concerns surrounding air quality which some say will decline, due to the increase in traffic levels.
Chair of the Wealden Planning Committee Susan Stedman said; “I cannot believe the lack of support Wealden District Council has received from the environmental agencies, who have left us in this unbelievable position. We are in gridlock already in Hailsham, but we are not the traffic authority, or county council or environment agency, who all don’t see a problem with it.”
In October, Wealden approved plans for a medical centre for land opposite Reef Way and a new Primary School for land east of Park Road in the town.