Rushlake Green Village Leaf

Loose Leaf guide to the

CORE STRATEGY

of Wealden Council's Strategic Development Framework


What, in essence, is this all about?

In December, Wealden District Council approved its Core Strategy, which sets Wealden’s planning framework for the period up to 2030. The portfolio holder behind this strategy is District Councillor Roy Galley. The strategy document talks about wishing to ‘retain [our] rural character and high quality environment whilst providing sufficient growth to improve the performance of our economy, regenerate our market towns and provide a more vital future for our villages. The strategy also aims to promote sustainability, ease of access to services and reduce the carbon footprint of development.

As a result, most of the growth is proposed in the form of ‘sustainable urban extensions’. Based on this principle, there will be significant housing growth within Hailsham (1300 dwellings) and Uckfield (1000) with additional growth at Stone Cross (650) and Polegate (700). Lesser and ‘proportionate’ growth is proposed in Crowborough (300) and Heathfield (160). At the same time the strategy allocates some 40,000 sq metres of employment land, mainly in Hailsham, Polegate and Uckfield and makes provision for an additional 17,000sq m of retail space, centred upon Uckfield and Hailsham. In the more rural areas, thirteen settlements have been identified as being able to sustainably accommodate growth in order to ‘support the vitality of our villages and rural areas’ – this amounts to another 455 houses between now and 2030.

 

How was it developed?

The core strategy begins by looking at the context - analysing the Wealden area as it is today.  It looks at the interaction between the people and the places, within across the District, and the resulting issues. It looks at the types of communities (Wealden has five towns, and many rural ‘settlements’) and what factors must be considered to maintain the balance between them. It looks at the environment, both in terms of the natural landscape we need to preserve and in terms of the recreational value of the countryside for people within and beyond the district. The document looks at the local economy, the importance of small businesses and the potential to create economic growth through investment and provision of business space. And it looks at what Wealden is like as a place to live for the 62,000 households in the district – the differing levels of affluence, the social issues, the need for adequate local infrastructure and the need to balance affordable housing with ‘market’ housing in response to demand from within, and beyond, the district.

One important element of the ‘spatial strategy’ is the way in which different areas can be categorised. This ‘settlement hierarchy’ has six levels. ‘Primary centres’ (such as Tunbridge Wells) are all outside the district and offer a full range of facilities and services.  ‘Secondary centres’ (such as East Grinstead) are also outside the district and offer a range of services and facilities and meet the majority of their own needs. ‘District centres’ (such as Hailsham) offer a good range of services and facilities, are nor reliant on other District Centres, but require support from other centres to meet the needs of their residents. ‘Service centres’ (such as Heathfield) offer a range of jobs, services and facilities. They serve local communities and the wider rural area. Local Service Centres (such as Horam) are more limited in what they offer local residents and are dependent on other centres.  ‘Neighbourhood centres’ (such as Rushlake Green) have limited services, or none at all, but access to centres nearby. There are also settlements that are ‘unclassified’ where no further development would be sustainable.

The strategy identifies the need to maintain the overall balance of this settlement hierarchy. It concludes that more sustainable patterns of living will be promoted if the majority of future growth is ‘focused on towns and larger villages in the hierarchy, where facilities, services and site opportunities exist.’ Importantly, Neighbourhood Centres such as Rushlake Green will be subject to ‘Countryside Constraints’, where new development will only be allowed where it reflects the ‘character and needs’ of the area.

 

Where will it take us?

The overall aspirations of the overall Local Development Framework (LDF) are distilled into a ‘long term vision’, with an associated set of objectives for the District as a whole. As Councillor Roy Galley explained in the December Council meeting:

“Our vision is that, by 2030, Wealden will have successfully accommodated growth to meet future needs whilst protecting and enhancing its essential rural character and high quality environment, and promoting the countryside as a resource for recreation and tourism. Its market towns will have been regenerated, providing opportunities for residents to access suitable housing, local jobs, services, facilities and recreational opportunities. A number of the rural settlements will have enhanced their sustainability through successful growth including provision of affordable housing.

 

How will we get there?

The strategy includes a number of over-arching spatial ‘planning objectives’. These cover everything from managing countryside resources and protecting the historic environment, to improving local prosperity and supporting the growth of new and existing enterprises, as the basis for employment. These objectives in turn inform a set of ‘spatial planning policies’ that will be the basis of future planning decisions.

 

What will this mean for us locally?

The Council acknowledges that delivery of the strategy will depend on a range of agencies and interests, including landowners and developers. ‘Continued partnership working between the Council and local town and parish councils, will be an essential part of the process to foster community-led planning.’

The area strategy for Heathfield specifically seeks to continue the role of the town as a ‘service centre’ for a wide rural catchment of small towns and villages. (This obviously encompasses Rushlake Green, Warbleton and many other parts of our Heathfield East ward). The area strategy sees the importance of continuing to work with Heathfield and Waldron Parish Council, the Heathfield Partnership and other partners to build on their visioning reports. It identifies an area to the north west of Heathfield for 160 new homes and aims to grow job opportunities by encouraging small-scale new employment development and improving, intensifying and expanding existing employment areas as appropriate. It also aims to improve and expand the retail activity and support better public transport connections with neighbouring settlements such as our own. Importantly, the strategy specifically talks about “encouraging opportunities to enhance recreational facilities by supporting the development of a swimming pool in an appropriate and sustainable location.” The Heathfield Partnership will see this as an endorsement of efforts to date, to re-invigorate Heathfield town centre, do more for its youth, and bring in better facilities such as the pool – and also as a stimulus for future action.

The Core Strategy also contains an overall 'rural area strategy’ for at least 455 new dwellings in some of the rural areas classified as service centres, local service centres and neighbourhood centres.  And while development boundaries will be retained or provided for some of the service centres and local service centres, they will be removed for all other rural settlements. The idea behind retaining some of the development boundaries appears to be about providing scope for larger and more sustainable villages to have a flexible approach to provision of employment and other services or facilities. On the other hand in the smaller settlements, particularly the neighbourhood centres and those unclassified, protection of the countryside will normally take precedence. What this appears to mean in practice is that for small villages, there will be no active encouragement of significant developments. However if the situation justifies it, and local people support, development (particularly affordable housing) will be allowed as long as it does not do harm to the countryside and the rural environment.

 

Now it’s over to you

The above piece attempts only to provide an initial introduction to the Core Strategy of the Local Development Framework, and its potential impact on Wealden as a whole, on the Heathfield area and our more immediate neighbourhood. If you want more detail, this is available online. And the publication of the material marks the beginning of a six-week period of consultation, during which time local people; and groups, communities and organisations, will be able to make representations about any aspect of the Core Strategy document. For an insight into the story behind the core strategy, and some thoughts about its impact, read our ‘conversation with Councillor Roy Galley’ by clicking here.

 

Representation

The period in which individuals and organisations can make representations about Wealden’s Core Strategy runs for six weeks from Monday 14 February and will end on Monday 28 March. All proposed submission documents, including Wealden District Council's Proposed Core Strategy and it's accompanying Sustainability Appraisal will be available to view and download on the Council’s website, www.wealden.gov.uk from Friday 11 February 2011.

Reference copies of the proposed Core Strategy, together with accompanying Sustainability Appraisal, various background papers guidance notes and representation forms can also be viewed at the following locations:

Wealden District Council's offices at Crowborough and Hailsham.
East Sussex County Council offices in Lewes.Public Libraries at: Crowborough, Forest Row, Hailsham, Heathfield, Polegate, Uckfield, Wadhurst and Willingdon.
Town and Parish Council Offices at: Crowborough, Forest Row, Hailsham,  Heathfield and Waldron, Maresfield, Polegate, Uckfield, Willingdon and Jevington.

To see a full explanation of the Representation process, click here