A former mental asylum could be converted into hundreds of homes as part of a major housing development.

The site of the former Hellingly Hospital near Hailsham is set in 63 acres of buildings and parkland.

Developers want to build a mixture of luxury and affordable one and two bedroom flats and two to five bedroom homes.

Around 24 acres will be used for housing while the rest will be kept as parkland with space for sporting facilities and play areas.

There are also plans to protect wildlife areas on the site and carry out ecological improvements to maintain adjacent ancient woodland.

Permission in principle to build up to 400 homes, which includes new buildings plus the refurbishment and conversion of several original hospital buildings, was granted by Wealden District Council last November.

The hospital site, which closed in 1996, was designed by the architect GT Hine and built in 1902.

It was unusual in that at one time it had its own railway line running through its parkland.

The site was sold by Sussex Partnership NHS Trust to developers Gleeson last March and the site has now been taken over by Reigate based company Charles Church.

The company is expecting to submit a detailed planning application within the next six months and hopes to start on the first phase of construction later this year.

Extensive work also needs to be done which includes off-site road improvements and traffic calming measures both within the development and along the A271.

The company also intends to contribute towards recycling and household waste facilities, healthcare services, secondary school places, enhanced bus services in the area because of the extra demand the new homes will have.

It could also provide a new primary school within the site.

Charles Church managing director Andy Pollock said: "The site of the former Hellingly Hospital represents an outstanding opportunity for us to create a superb new residential development within East Sussex.

"In addition to providing a significant amount of new homes for both the private and affordable sectors, the careful enhancement and management of the existing parkland will create a valuable and ecologically diverse area of open space of benefit to the whole community."

However any application is likely to be met with objections from people living in the area.

Opponents say such a large scale development will cause far too much extra traffic and local roads will not be able to cope.

They also warn the infrastructure such as water supplies and sewerage are also already under stretch and extra homes could lead to future problems.

The site is remote from the town centre facilities and public transport links are not good.

A survey of people living in the area last year revealed most would be against any development of more than 50 while all those questioned wanted less than 250.