Wealden’s Local Plan rejected following complaints by Tunbridge Wells Council

The team from Corker Outdoor, Award sponsor Jason Varney (Thomson, Snell & Passmore) & Eamonn Holmes

The Planning Inspector returned Wealden District Council’s [WDC] draft Local Plan last week for failing to engage with other councils and not fulfilling its obligation to meet housing needs.

It follows complaints about the Sussex district from a number of councils bordering Wealden, including Tunbridge Wells.

TWBC’s own Local Plan has led to protests after it announced plans to build a garden village in the parish of Capel in order to meet strict house-building targets.

The authority, along with Rother District Council, Eastbourne Borough Council, Lewes District Council, and South Downs National Park Authority argued that Wealden had ‘failed to communicate in matters relating to air quality, cross boundary impacts, and neighbouring Eastbourne’s unmet housing and employment needs’.

Planning Inspector Louise Nurser, said in her report: “Eastbourne is a severely constrained borough, both physically and due to significant infrastructure limitations to growth. It is commonly accepted, including by the Council, that Eastbourne is unable to meet all its housing and employment needs.”

But she added: “My central concern in respect of the legal compliance of the plan relates to the lack of constructive engagement with neighbouring authorities and Natural England in respect of impacts on habitats and landscape and in respect of the issue of unmet housing need in Eastbourne.”

She said the Council had even sent out ‘redacted information’ to other authorities and had provided reports ‘too late to provide any opportunity for constructive input’.

Wealden District Council said it was ‘disappointed’ its draft Local Plan had been dismissed.

Council Leader Bob Standley said the plan had been supported by Councillors and residents, but added: “Unfortunately, the Planning Inspector, following last summer’s Examination in Public of our Local Plan, has found that we put too great an emphasis on protecting the environment and that we need to do more to build houses in Wealden which our neighbouring councils cannot accommodate.

“Regrettably, this will inevitably have impacts on our communities. We acknowledge that there is already significant pressure on infrastructure, such as roads, doctors, dentists, schools and sports facilities. A requirement to build more homes will only have a greater impact on those facilities, which will require further investment.”

It is the second local authority bordering Tunbridge Wells to try to avoid building the necessary number of homes dictated by central Government to cope with the housing crisis and rising population.

Sevenoaks District Council [SDC] had its plan returned last year after defying the Government’s quota for building 11,312 homes by the year 2035, saying it would only provide 9,410.

Planning Inspector Louise Baker asked the Council to withdraw the document, and also cited a ‘lack of constructive engagement with neighbouring authorities to resolve the issue of unmet housing need’.

Sevenoaks Council Leader, Peter Fleming, has subsequently refused to withdraw the plan and said he would be ‘writing to the Secretary of State on this matter and urgently asking him to intervene’.

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