The HFAG story
– The who, why, where and when of the Group –
Who is HFAG?
The founder members of the Horstedpond Farm Action Group (HFAG) are the residents of the four Horstedpond Farm properties that would be completely surrounded by the 400 homes that Castlefort Homes proposes to build on the Farm’s fields. The four properties comprise a Grade II-listed manor house (Horstedpond House) and three converted farm buildings (The Barn, The Wagon Lodge and The Stables).
The eight Horstedpond Farm fields on which Castlefort Homes proposes to build the 400 homes cover an area of 27.2 hectares. The area butts up against Lewes Road, the A22 and the Little Horsted roundabout in South Uckfield.
The Horstedpond Farm enclave, comprising the four properties owned by the HFAG founder members, is a medieval farmstead and a heritage asset. The original farmhouse has a Grade II listing and for much of its history, up until about 1700, the site served as the principal residence of the manor of Little Horsted. The Grade II-listed building is not the enclave’s only heritage asset. The three converted farm building residences date from the 17th century.
The Horstedpond Farm landowner sold the three old farm buildings to Chalvington Barns Ltd in 2008. Chalvington Barns then auctioned off the properties to private individuals who carried out the conversion work.
When and why was HFAG established?
HFAG was established in mid-September 2022. About three weeks earlier the HFAG founder members had learned that Castlefort Homes was about to submit an Outline Planning Application to Wealden District Council (WDC) for the 400 homes and were told that they would be informed when the application went live. In the event the application went live on 8 September but HFAG was not informed of this until 15 September, on which date HFAG was formally established.
The late announcement of the active Outline Planning Application left the founder members only four weeks to establish their Action Group, submit an online objection to the proposal and alert concerned neighbours to the plan by Castlefort Homes and the landowner to erect 400 new homes.
It was immediately apparent that the newbuild proposal submitted to WDC would obviously have a major impact well beyond Horstedpond Farm itself. It would have major consequences for all users of Uckfield’s limited roadway infrastructure and range of amenities. It would thus adversely affect the town’s overall quality of life. From the outset the aim of HFAG was to raise a number of sound, well-based objections to the proposed project and to reach out to the broader local community to alert the people of Uckfield to the adverse impact that the scheme would have on not only their day-to-day lives but also on the ecology of the town and surrounding parishes.
WDC allowed only up until 10 October 2022 for objections to the Castlefort Homes proposal to be submitted online, a very short period indeed. Thereafter, objections could still be submitted but only by the poorly signposted route of e-mails to WDC, an arrangement which further stacked the cards in favour of the developers.
Main HFAG objection
The central plank of the Group’s opposition to the Castlefort Homes proposal is the fact that Horstedpond Farm is directly across Lewes Road from the Ridgewood Place housing development currently underway. WDC granted permission for the construction of 1,000 new homes at Ridgewood Place in 2016. HFAG believes that the construction of the Ridgewood Place dwellings would more than meet any conceivable need for new homes in Uckfield, hence the HFAG motto, Enough is enough!
As of January 2023, only 170 of the permitted 1,000 new Ridgewood Place homes had been built. The effects of Covid-19 and, more recently, the steep rise in the cost of living on the back of surging inflation, have slowed the pace of Ridgewood Place home sales.
The 170 homes built to date represent 70% of Stage 1 of the planned five-stage Ridgewood Place construction project. Building work on the final 80 Stage 1 homes began in late early 2023. No detailed plans have yet been submitted to Uckfield Town Council for the construction work and infrastructure planned for Stages 2-5. In the original Ridgewood Place masterplan approved by WDC, Stages 2-5 of the project would also provide some amenities, including a primary school and shops. Castlefort Homes has promoted the proximity of these planned Ridgewood Place amenities as attractions in its own proposed Horstedpond Farm development project. As yet, however, there is no indication if and when these Ridgewood Place facilities will be built.
Full range of HFAG objections
HFAG submitted an online, 2,000-word master objection to Wealden District Council on 7 October 2022. Besides the Ridgewood Place/Enough is enough consideration, HFAG’s master objection covers aspects such as the heritage of Horstedpond Farm and its buildings, the current absence of a Local Plan for Wealden, major Uckfield transport/access/amenity availability issues, the flood risk, inadequate sewage treatment arrangements and the adverse environmental impact of the proposed Horstedpond Farm scheme. Another key issue that the HFAG master objection highlights is the disproportionately high number of new homes that East Sussex, and Wealden and Uckfield in particular, would be required to build under the previously applicable but now-lapsed strategic, regional and national planning policies.
To meet the tight time constraints imposed by WDC for the submission of online objections to the Castlefort Homes proposal, HFAG’s master objection was compiled rather hastily. To do justice to all the aspects of the Castlefort Homes proposal that HFAG objects to, individual Group members have subsequently prepared and submitted to WDC, via e-mail, 12 additional objections, each focusing on a specific issue.
HFAG’s master objection and the 12 focused objections can be found in the Our Objections section of this website. HFAG team members have devoted considerable effort to researching all the relevant issues and the Group is proud of the catalogue of objections that we’ve compiled. Amongst other things, we point out that our body of objections might provide useful ideas and starting points for other groups and organisations about to oppose a local housing development.
Submissions to WDC related to the Castlefort Homes proposal
Besides the Castlefort Homes planning application itself, three types of documents have been submitted to Wealden District Council with respect to the proposed Horstedpond Farm scheme (designated as Planning Application WD/2022/2216/MAO within the WDC system). These are (a) consultant reports commissioned by Castlefort Homes, (b) adjoining/neighbour letters (comments by private individuals) and (c) consultee responses.
The majority of the consultant reports carried out on behalf of Castlefort Homes, whether they be on ecological impact, road safety or flood risk assessment, were in the nature of desk-top studies, and involved only relatively few onsite visits and observations. Where the consultants did take onsite measurements, the scope was limited and did not consider the full variation of expected conditions over a suitable period of time.
As of April 2023, over 100 adjoining/neighbour letters had been submitted to WDC. All but four of the submissions were objections to the proposed Castlefort Homes scheme. The four pro-development submissions were all compiled by members of the landowner’s family.
The consultee responses to the Castlefort Homes proposal are most illuminating. For a start, Uckfield Town Council, Little Horsted Parish Council, Isfield Parish Council and Framfield Parish Council have all objected to the Castlefort Homes proposal to build 400 homes at Horstedpond Farm. The objections of the Councils are sound, well-considered and wide-ranging, covering a number of key issues.
Other consultee responses pinpoint major weaknesses in the Castlefort Homes planning application and specify the need for a series of remedial measures to be implemented before an revised Full Planning Application could even be considered. These consultee response documents, some of which are effectively outright objections, highlight the rushed and incomplete nature of the Castlefort Homes planning application. The developer, aware of the various other housing development proposals for Uckfield that have been submitted in recent months, submitted its ill-prepared application earlier than anticipated because it thought its Horstedpond Farm project was likely to raise fewer objections than the competing schemes.
The HFAG website
HFAG established a website – horstepondfarm.org – on 5 October 2022 to alert people to the Castlefort Homes proposal to build 400 homes at Horstedpond Farm and to inform them of the unsuitability of this ill-prepared and opportunistic scheme. The website was launched as a simple host page, with instructions on how to submit objections to the planning application to WDC.
Since the launch, the website has been populated as a full site. It features numerous sections – Home, About, Our Objections, News, Photos/Maps and Contact – and is a work in progress. As mentioned, HFAG is particularly proud of the Our Objections section, the dozen targeted submissions to WDC highlighting the many reasons why HFAG believes it would be a mistake for the Council to grant permission to the Castlefort Homes application.
On the Contact page visitors to the site have the opportunity to register their support for the HFAG cause and to make any comments they feel relevant to the proposed Horstedpond Farm development. Our Group is most grateful for the valuable input received to date. HFAG keeps these like-minded respondents appraised of the latest developments with HFAG and its website, as well as with the scheme in general, through regular alerts.
The HFAG website continues to be populated with relevant material. Our News section will be the focus of increasing attention going forward as we add to the range of media coverage already achieved. Amongst other initiatives, we will be developing articles that look at the proposed Horstedpond Farm project in the context of the current changes being made to national, regional and local housing development and environmental legislation.
HFAG going forward
HFAG is pressing ahead with its campaign, seeking to improve and extend our outreach to local neighbours, councillors, MPs, the media and like-minded action groups.
Following on from Enough is enough, our second slogan is United we stand. If you have any comments, suggestions or recommendations you think may prove useful, we’d like to hear from you.
In the meantime, it is still possible to submit an objection to the proposed Horstedpond Farm Planning Application. Quote WD/2022/2216/MAO, include the word ‘objection’ in your message and send it by e-mail to: