A MAJOR housing development on the outskirts of Hailsham has been granted full planning permission.

On Thursday (November 4), Wealden District Council’s planning committee south considered a reserved matters application for a 300-home development at Old Marshfoot Farm, off of Marshfoot Lane.

The  proposals were first granted outline planning permission in 2018, but have proven to be controversial among local residents, who have long raised objections about its potential impact on infrastructure, flooding and Marshfoot Lane.

Some of these criticisms were aired at the meeting by ward councillor Gavin Blake-Coggins (Lib Dem), who said: “I’ve been a local member for a number of years now in Hailsham East, where this development is. 

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“When this first came up some years ago, it was myself and one other councillor who had it called in to try and stop it because we knew there were going to be problems.”

In addition to letters of objection, the council had received a petition of objection signed by 356 people. A 1,133 signature petition objecting to the outline planning application was also resubmitted.

This strength of feeling was evident among public speakers, with the meeting being briefly adjourned following some heated words.

Concerns were clearly shared by a number of committee members, with several arguing the scheme should not have been granted outline planning permission as the site was not suitable for development. 

In light of this there was some discussion around deferring or refusing and asking for a smaller number of properties. Planning officers argued there would be no justification for doing so.

After some discussion of this, head of planning Stacey Robins said: “What we are hearing here today, what this boils down to, is members expressing concerns that up to 300 dwellings is a mistake and should not have been granted.

“But it has been granted, so that principle is established. There is a grant of planning permission with access and up to 300 dwellings on this site. If we wanted to have withheld consent we should have done that on the outline application.”

Councillors also raised a number of concerns about the ecological and environmental impacts of the proposals, although officers noted no objections had been raised by Natural England. 

Ultimately, the committee approved the proposals on a majority vote, although stressed to developers that attempts to water down the quality of the site through future applications would be viewed dimly.

Seconding a motion to approve, Johanna Howell (Con) said: “I have to say I do this with a heavy heart, because I don’t think it is the best site in the world.

“But we are where we are and we could land in some very serious water because we already have an outline permission for this site.”

Approval was granted subject to some amendments of the proposed plots on existing properties, which would require further amendments after the committee signs off on the development.

The decision marks the final step of a long-running planning history. 

The site was first granted outline planning permission in 2018, but this included conditions connected to the council’s last local plan, which was withdrawn after a planning inspector found it unsuitable.

These conditions included the developer making a financial contribution to mitigation measures intended to ensure there would be no adverse impact on the Ashdown Forest, Pevensey Levels and Lewes Downs.

With no policy basis for these conditions, last year the developer sought an updated outline planning permission to remove them. This amended permission was eventually granted in May last year, once details of highways improvements were agreed.

For further information on the proposals see application reference WD/2021/0424/MRM on the Wealden District Council website.