East Hoathly is a village on the cusp of huge and significant change. Despite nearly 1000 objections from residents, the Campaign for Protection of Rural England, the Historic England and Wealden District Council’s own Conservation and Heritage Officer, 205 homes have gained outline planning approval. These 205 new homes represents a 63% increase in housing numbers. In the last 10 years the village has seen house building in the form of 2 smaller housing developments and the combined effect of these increased the size of the village at that time by 25%.
The infrastructure of the village and surrounding area quite simply will not be able to cope: the primary school has been full and operating a waiting list for close to 10 years, a much loved village pub has closed, our café and small gift ship is operating on reduced hours and is rumoured to be closing shortly, our village shop, whilst magnificent, doesn’t open on a Sunday and closes at lunchtime on Saturdays, the bus service has been reduced and now residents are only able to travel to Uckfield or Eastbourne (and stops in between) on an hourly basis – with no evening or Sunday service. The GP surgery is suffering from the national shortage of GPs and a lot of GP appointments are now offered in the sister surgery at Buxted (which for non-car drivers involves catching that hourly bus to Uckfield and then the hourly train to Buxted) or car drivers have to undertake a round journey of 20 miles negotiating the busy Uckfield bypass. Village Concerns (the action group set up by the Village to co-ordinate a response to any planning applications) is aware of several power cuts and water supply failures in the village, sadly increasing in frequency, and also know that the main sewer in the village is operating at capacity and will need replacing – Southern Water also know this but as a statutory consultee they are not allow to object to planning applications, only comment.
There are very few employers within the village and anyone moving into the new homes that has to travel for employment, post year 11 education or primary education (given the lack of school spaces) will be battling their way onto the already congested A22 or risking driving round a network of country lanes that quite simply are not designed for the current volume and speed of traffic on them. Residents who try to leave the village in rush hour know that the A22 is a solid traffic jam heading south towards Eastbourne from 16:00hrs onwards and that turning on to the A22 via roundabout or road junction is a risky task.
And the threat doesn’t stop at 205 new houses. There is a planning application in the queue waiting to be heard for a further 26 houses (further updated documents for this were submitted yesterday so it is very much a live application) and a planning application for another 55 houses recently turned down by WDC is likely to come back as an appeal. A further field in the village owned by WDC is currently being valued and is also proposed to be sold for development – probably (in WDC’s own words) to WDC’s own development company which means that WDC will be the land owner, developer and planning authority – anyone care to bet that Planning Committee South will be brave enough to turn down that application? That field, owned by Wealden since 1947, ostensibly for social housing, has never been used for that purpose - should not Wealden honour that?
East Hoathly, and its neighbouring partner Halland, are under a threat, the depth of which has never been seen before.
Rural destruction – coming soon to a village near you?