PLANS to build nearly 200 homes on Sussex countryside have been rejected by a cabinet minister.

Local government secretary Eric Pickles has upheld a decision by Wealden District Council to refuse the plan for a greenfield site in Hailsham because it was located outside the town’s development area.

The proposal by St Albans-based developer Masma was for 195 proper- ties and a doctor’s surgery on Oaklands in Ersham Road, Hailsham. However, following stiff opposition from locals, the local authority rejected the scheme, adding it was out of character with the semi-rural area.

This has now been upheld by both an independent planning inspector and Mr Pickles. Ukip councillor Laurence Keeley, who represents the area on East Sussex County Council, said: “I’m pleased as we have too many houses going up in the area and it’s getting overcrowded.”

The district council rejected the application in August. At the time it claimed the development would have an “unduly urbanis- ing effect” on the area which was characterised by “its increasingly rural and sylvan feel”.

In a judgment delivered last week, Mr Pickles admitted there would be social, economic and environmental benefits to the proposal.

However he said it did not fit in with the council’s core strategy, which has already allocated land for housing elsewhere in the area for the next two decades. The ruling was made after a public inquiry held on five days between February 12 and March 7.

The developer has six weeks to appeal the decision to the High Court.