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Stopping the spread – saving Wealden’s beautiful countryside

With new housing developments being built across Wealden and with plenty more at planning stage – the Wealden Green Party is working with communities to ask: how can we stop the spread?

In September, nearly 70 people attended an informative workshop event in Horam organised by Cornelie Usborne, Wealden Green Party member and county councillor candidate for Wealden East in the 2021 elections.

Horam is one of many communities affected by new housing developments – including a proposed 51-house development on agricultural land on Horebeech Lane. Construction of new-builds in Wealden have more than doubled since 2011 and this figure is set to virtually double again over the next 10 years.

The event featured a series of short presentations designed to inform local residents and equip them to contest planning decisions in the case of unwanted – or unsuitable – new housing developments. The presentations were followed by a Q&A session.

The presentations were on:

Planning Law:
Ian Tysh, legal planning expert (presentation here)

Green Party policies on development:
Georgia Taylor, Councillor, ESCC (presentation here)

District Council planning decision-making:
Keith Obbard, Councillor, WDC (presentation here)

Parish and Town Council planning committees:
Simon Cramond, Councillor, Isfield PC;
Colin Stocks, Councillor, Crowborough TC (presentation here)

Success! Green Party Councillors making a difference on Planning Committee North:
Patricia Patterson-Vanegas, Councillor WDC (presentation here)

Success and disappointment in Horam:
Cornelie Usborne, Green Party candidate (presentation here);
Lucy Atabey, planning activist and editor, Horam & Vines Cross Village Diary (presentation here)

By giving local people a better understanding of planning law, council decision-making processes and how to effectively contest decisions, Wealden Green Party hopes to help slow the spread of unsuitable developments in the area.

WGP event
CU headshot

Organiser Cornelie Usborne said:

"During my campaign in the county council elections, overdevelopment was the single most pressing issue brought to my attention. So I vowed I would try and help local residents to defend the countryside and the wildlife all around us.”

“We do need more homes, particularly affordable and social housing. But developers are not interested in social good, they are building four- to five-bedroom executive-style housing on greenfield sites.  The wrong houses are being built in the wrong places.”

“It is also a myth that developers are important for the local economy and improve infrastructure. Developers often promise a percentage of affordable housing and admirable local schemes to improve public transport or roads, parks or playgrounds.”

“But once planning permission is achieved much of this is renegotiated down or abolished altogether. No wonder, local anti-planners feel let down in their fight against environmental destruction and the government’s build, build, build agenda.”


2 thoughts on “Stopping the spread – saving Wealden’s beautiful countryside

  1. I have just watched the recording of the WDC Planning Committee South meeting on 4th November 2021 discussing the Horam Manor Touring Park application to install Static Caravans.
    After watching the meeting I was reminded again that my Democratic Rights have been removed by WDC. I vote to elect District Councillors to represent me on all matters, including planning, in my Ward only to find that WDC prevent them from voting on any planning application in my Ward.
    There is not much point in my lobbying any District Councillors in my neighbouring Wards because they don’t need my vote and won’t represent me.
    Why do WDC prevent my Councillors from voting? Most other District Councils allow District Councillors a free vote. Is it any wonder that so many Planning Applications are approved despite local opposition?

    1. Hi Chris,
      I think that some Councils allow their Ward Councillors to vote on planning applications in their own Ward, but as you say in Wealden our Constitution doesn’t allow this.
      Not all Councillors will agree with me, but personally I am happy with this rule.

      Let me explain why.
      A member of a Planning Committee must come to the Committee with an open mind and must not take a position either for or against a particular application until they have heard all the evidence on both sides. If they do declare their opinion before the committee they are deemed to have ‘pre-determined’ or fettered their judgement and must not vote.
      At the Planning Committee every member must consider very carefully where the balance of the matter lies, and then must vote for what they consider to be the correct solution within the planning law and for the benefit for the majority of the District’s residents.
      Remember, when a Councillor is sitting on the Planning Committee they are taking decisions for the whole of the District. That may not necessarily be in the interests of the local residents.

      I am a member of the Planning Committee North and if there is a planning application in my Ward, because of the fact that I cannot vote on this application it allows me the freedom to fully represent my residents and to speak out, and in fact to be an advocate for my residents at the Planning Committee, where I can freely voice their concerns and opinions and to be their spokesperson.
      This, of course, is what they elected me to do. To be their representative.
      The fact that I cannot vote gives the residents a stronger voice, because I am not constrained by the risk of being pre-determined.
      If I do my job as an advocate well enough, and my cause is just, the Committee should vote as I request.

      I hope that helps to explain the reasoning behind this rule.
      Best Wishes,
      Keith Obbard

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