21 May 2014
Wealden's Core Strategy Local Plan, approved in 2012, seeks to provide sufficient growth to sustain the local economy while protecting our high quality rural environment, much of it protected by the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the South Downs National Park.
Uckfield, lying in the Low Weald, has traditionally been a vibrant market town and centre of commerce along the A22/A26 corridor. The need for improvement to the local transport infrastructure to support the towns continued growth has become a main priority. Wealden District Council has been actively working with Uckfield Town Council and other public authorities to prepare a Master Plan for the regeneration of the town centre which will alleviate traffic congestion. Funding for such improvements will be dependent on contributions from current and future housing developments. The Local Plan, after widespread consultation, identifies areas for major development until 2027.
The Local Plan will allow for a redevelopment of the towns retail centre providing some 10,000 m² of new retail space as well as the creation of 12,650 m² of employment space. It limits to 1000 the number of new homes to be built between now and 2027, and identifies Ridgewood as the most sustainable place for the growth needed to support the vibrancy of the town.
Where the new development will be
The Wealden Local Plan prioritises the use of available brown field sites wherever possible, but these are very limited in Uckfield. The most sustainable site to enable the towns continued growth is in the west between Ridgewood and the A22. Growth here will be supported by improved access and new recreational space. Increased job opportunities are being encouraged through new commercial premises and offices around the town. An additional 10,700 m² of retail space in the centre of town, together with 12,650 m² of employment land, will provide further opportunity for jobs. The Local Plan seeks to use existing open space and provide a green corridor linking the town centre to the west and south to provide opportunities for walkers, riders and cyclists. Proposals to reduce traffic congestion will accompany future development plans, and measures will be taken to alleviate flood risk. The Local Plan also proposes to safeguard the route for any potential extension of the Uckfield to London rail line to Lewes.
The following is a map to illustrate the proposed area for an urban extension to the West of Uckfield. The area between Ridgewood and the A22 has been identified as the most suitable site to enable the towns continued growth.
The Next Steps
The Council is preparing detailed development plans which will identify the specific allocated sites for new development up until 2027, taking account of the Local Plan and the availability of suitable sites. A Strategic Sites document is expected to be published for representations in summer 2013. A further plan will look at the growth needs of Wealden's principal villages. Following an independent Examination of Wealden's Core Strategy, the total number of new homes proposed for the District will be reviewed in 2015.
Protecting the Ashdown Forest
Increasing development and nitrogen oxide emissions from motor vehicles are threatening the rare heathland ecosystem of the Ashdown Forest. This has led to a 7km protection zone around the Forest to meet the Council's duty to protect these internationally important sites. This will affect all developments which lead to increased traffic within the protection zone that are not already accounted for in the Wealden Local Plan. Wealden District Council is keen for business and tourist developments to go ahead in the area provided they do not breach Habitats regulations.
The Council is working with environmental consultants to provide guidance and assistance in dealing with proposals. This includes identifying alternative green spaces to relieve some of the recreational pressure on the Forest.