Ashdown Forest under threat after planners had to approve new builds

Ashdown Forest under threat after planners had to approve new builds

The result could see more developments built on the area surrounding the forest—one of the largest in the South East and also sparked the inspiration for the Winnie the Pooh stories.

Wealden District Council is among a number of local authorities in the area that has had its Local Plan rejected by the Planning Inspectorate.

Local plans outline where houses and other infrastructure is to go. Wealden, along with Sevenoaks and Tonbridge & Malling District Council have had their plans rejected after failing to plan for enough houses to meet the local area’s housing needs.

The Local Plan at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, which has caused controversy for proposing thousands of new homes in Paddock Wood and around the village of Tudeley in Capel, is about to be sent to the Planning Inspecto, following several rounds of consultation.

However, the Inspector kicked out Wealden District Council’s plan last year after it failed to communicate with other authorities about where it could build new houses after the district fell short of the number of homes the government had asked it to build.

Now, the authority has found itself unable to prevent the building of developments in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty [AONB].

Last Thursday (October 14), the north planning committee at the authority had to approve plans for two detached four-bedroom houses on land to the north of Eridge Road in Crowborough.

The development sits within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), next to Ashdown Forest, and is outside of Crowborough’s development boundary.

Despite protestations from ward councillor Kay Moss (Independent) along with Crowborough Town Council and residents, planners found themselves powerless to prevent the housing project.

In a report handed to the committee, a council planning officer admitted the development would likely have a ‘significant impact’ on Ashdown Forest, although planners were powerless to stop it.

The planning officer said: “It is acknowledged that the site lies close to but beyond the defined development boundary in the adopted plan.

“However, at present the council cannot currently demonstrate the required five-year supply of housing land.

“In this context, the National Planning Policy Framework advises that proposals for housing developments should be favourably considered … unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.”

The planning committee voted by seven to three to approve the development.

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