Submitted to Wealden District Council by Becca Collison on behalf of the Horstedpond Farm Action Group (HFAG)
16 November 2022
The proposed Horstedpond Farm development for 400 new homes on 27 hectares of rural land would totally encircle an enclave of about three hectares that contains an ancient farmstead dating from medieval times. This heritage asset is formally recognised by a Grade 2 listing on the original farmhouse and an Article 4 directive on the whole development site and farmstead. If the proposed 400-home Horstedpond Farm project went ahead, it would completely destroy the setting of this heritage asset. Some of this heritage asset pre-dates 1622, and for much of its history, up until about 1700, the site served as the principal residence of the manor of Little Horsted.
The rural setting of the existing Horstedpond Farm medieval farmstead enclave, with its Grade II-listed building, three converted farm building residences and an oast house, is intrinsic to understanding and explaining its historical significance. The relationship of the old farmstead and the surviving historic landscape features of the proposed development site, including its series of pond bays, fields, ancient woodlands, hedgerows and trackways, would be severely affected by the 400-home project. The Grade II-listed building is not the existing Horstedpond Farm enclave’s only heritage asset. The three converted farm building residences, which date from the 17th century, also hold this heritage status and one of these, the Wagon Lodge, is the last remaining wagon lodge in Sussex.
Wealden District Council’s (WDC’s) Local Plan SP02 states “We will ensure that the intrinsic quality of the historic environment (of a site) is protected.” The UK’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that the setting of a historic building should be considered as part of the planning process and WDC has a statutory obligation to give special regard to the desirability of preserving listed buildings and their settings.
Historic England’s Good Practice Advice states “All heritage assets have a setting which need to be taken into account and this includes views of or from the historical asset.” Historic England also states that “Views which contribute more understanding of the significance of a heritage asset include those where the composition within the view was a fundamental aspect of the design or function of the heritage asset.”
WDC is thus obliged to consider both the past and present relationship between the heritage asset and its surroundings.
In the report carried out by Archaeology South East (ASE) commissioned by the developer it was stated that the heritage significance of Horstedpond Farm was moderate/high and its “contribution of setting to heritage significance” was also moderate/high. The ASE report concluded “that the impact of the proposed development on the farmstead would be moderate to high and that the proposed development is likely to have moderate to high impact on this setting, which in turn would translate as a moderate impact on its overall heritage significance.”
The ASE report also states that “given the clear historical relationship between the farmstead and the surrounding farmlands there is potential that the proposed development within it’s setting will impact it’s significant … and it is unavoidable that the proposed development would diminish the rural character of the landscape context of the farmstead”.
The ASE report goes on to point out that the “historic landscape … retains sufficient integrity to serve as a reminder of the intrinsic functional relationship between the farmstead and its surroundings”. It also reports that despite the proposed development seeking to mitigate the impact on the historic context it is “unavoidable that the proposed development would diminish the rural character of the landscape context of the farmstead … and that the proposed development has the potential to pose a moderate to high impact on the building’s setting … and a moderate potential impact to the overall heritage significance of the farmhouse”.
Although the developer is not proposing to build houses in Fields 3 and 4 which sit adjacent to the Grade II-listed farmhouse, the construction of a car park, a main site access road with roundabout entrance and a bus hub in Field 3 is part of the development plan. All traffic relating to the 400-home development would have to move through this field as this is the only planned access point into the site. The car park, access road/entrance roundabout and bus hub would all sit directly in front of the Grade II-listed listed farmhouse. As regards the possibility of screening options, Historic England’s Good Practice Advice states that screening may have as intrusive an effect on the setting as the development it seeks to mitigate.
In the planning application the developer is asked “Do the proposals require any diversion/extinguishment and/or creation of right of way?” The developer has answered “No” to this question.
However, the single new access road proposed by the developer for the 400-property site has to cross the original farm track that still serves the farmstead enclave. The residents of the farmstead have rights of use of this original farm track that are “free from any obstructions whatsoever”. This site access issue has yet to be addressed by the developer.
Article 4 Directive
The whole area of the proposed Horstedpond Farm development is covered by an Article 4 Directive which was put in place in 2006 by Wealden District Council (WDC) as a necessary and appropriate response when the farm land was being marketed in small sub-divided plots. WDC felt this subdivision of the land to be inappropriate and that it “could lead to non-agricultural uses of the development of the land which could seriously damage the rural character of the area of the Low Weald”. The Council also considered that the “residential amenities of nearby (existing farmstead) properties will be affected”. In weighing up the 2006 imposition of its Article 4 Directive, which removes permitted development rights, the Council also expressed its concern over the increased traffic generation as “there is limited access to the site through a (the existing) farm lane”. These Article 4 Directive issues remain as pertinent today as they did 16 years ago.
As a point of interest, some of these small sub-divided plots on the proposed Horstedpond Farm development site are still owned by the people they were sold to in 2006. As far as is known, these plot owners have not been informed of the proposed 400-home development.