Farm development plan inquiry set to last 11 days

A PLANNING inquiry into the Honey Farm development in Polegate got underway this week.

The inquiry into whether the appellant Pelham Holdings should be allowed to build 520 homes is being held at the Boship Farm Hotel in Lower Dicker. It started on Tuesday (January 11) and is expected to last around 11 days.

On Tuesday morning, planning inspector Robert Mellor heard opening submissions from the Pelham Holdings’ lawyers about the need for housing in the area and from parties concerned about the development and the impact it will have on the environment and community.

The plan has come up against strong objections and Environmental Protection Organisations (EPOs) was set up for the purposes of the inquiry.

Toby Fisher, from the EPOs, spoke of behalf of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the South Downs Society, the Campaign for Better Transport, Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Folkington Estate.

He said, “The appeal site is adjacent to the South Downs National Park, at the southern base of the steep chalk escarpment.

“It is characterised by green open fields, separated by hedgerows and is dominated by views of the ridges of Folkington Brow and Coombe Hill. It is unmistakably part of the countryside and distinctively separated from the Polegate by the A22.”

Mr Fisher also raised concerns about the development’s close proximity to the historic registered park and garden Wootton Manor.

Polegate Mayor Cllr Tim Voyce also spoke against the development. He too argued the homes would not be an extension of Polegate but would instead be an ‘urban island’ which would be isolated from the main town and its amenities.

The National Park Authority spoke about the development affecting the countryside views from the nearby downland.

Scott Lyness spoke on behalf of Wealden District Council and raised concerns about access to the site. He also said, “There is no need for this development in order to provide an adequate supply of housing.”

Christopher Boyle, who spoke on behalf of Pelham Holdings, was the first to present his case at the public inquiry. He said Wealden should not have refused the application when it came before them back in December 2009.

Mr Boyle said, “The local authority needs additional housing, it has previously identified this site as suitable for this scale of housing and there is no highways or sustainability objection from the statutory bodies charged with protecting those interests.

“Instead, we have eight reasons for refusal, including four which go to highway points. Why, we ask ourselves is this the case? The answer, it appears from the evidence, is an unhappy combination of the three Ms - mistake, misunderstanding and mischief.”

Mr Boyle said Wealden District Council had ‘doggedly embarked on a course of plan-making quite heroic in its errors’.

The inquiry continues.