Pre-planning Consultation Objection
Submitted to Wealden District Council by Mike Corkhill on behalf of the Horstedpond Farm Action Group (HFAG)
16 November 2022
Paragraph 39 of the UK’s National Planning Policy Framework (2021) states that:
“Early engagement has significant potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system for all parties. Good quality pre-application discussion enables better coordination between public and private resources and improved outcomes for the community.”
Wealden District Council (WDC), in its Statement of Community Involvement (2020), reinforces the importance of this aim.
In the Statement of Community Involvement planning application submission prepared for Castlefort Homes, the developer of the proposed 400-home Horstedpond Farm project, by SP Broadway, it was stated that “an extensive amount of pre-application engagement was undertaken, including holding an online public exhibition, a resident’s letter, a press release and a stakeholder letter”. The submission also pointed out that the online public exhibition, complete with a survey with carefully crafted questions heavily weighted in favour of feedback positive to the scheme and with little opportunity to object to the proposal for new homes, went live on 15 June 2022 and was closed on 31 August 2022.
As part of my objection to the Castlefort Homes proposal to build 400 homes at Horstedpond Farm on the grounds of inadequate pre-planning opportunities to learn about the project, I would like to refute the above SP Broadway statement. I live at The Wagon Lodge, one of the half dozen existing Horstedpond Farm residences that would be completely encircled by the 400 new homes. At no point was I or my Horstedpond Farm neighbours alerted to the online public exhibition nor did we receive a resident’s letter or see any press coverage. We were not made aware that the submission of a planning application from Castlefort Homes was imminent until myself and my fellow Horstedpond Farm residents had a meeting with a representative from Castlefort Homes on 22 August 2022.
At the meeting with the Castlefort Homes representative we were informed that we would be alerted as to when the planning application went live on the Wealden District Council (WDC) website. In the event the application, with all its attendant consultation documents, was submitted on 23 August and went live on 8 September but we were not informed by Castlefort until 15 September. That left us residents just four weeks, until 14 October 2022, to digest the welter of planning and consultative documents that had been submitted and to formulate a sound and reasoned objection to the proposal within the initial online comment submission window. During that period we established the Horstedpond Farm Action Group (HFAG), comprising our core of Horstedpond Farm residences, submitted our joint objection, created a website – horstedpondfarm.org – and reached out to numerous nearby residents who were similarly objecting to the proposal.
Regarding the online public exhibition held from 15 June to 31 August, with its imbalanced survey questionnaire, Castlefort Homes disingenuously states that the 22 responses it received indicated an “overwhelming need” for new homes of the types proposed in their plan. However, of all the submissions on this planning application submitted to the WDC website to date, all save four have been objections. The four approvals of the Castlefort proposal for Horstedpond Farm have all come from the family that owns the farm land.
HFAG appreciates that it is possible to continue to submit objections up to the time of the Wealden planning committee making the decision on the proposal. However, this e-mail-only option is not a well-signposted process within the WDC communications system and HFAG is taking pains to alert potential objectors to the opportunity to continue logging submissions on the Horstedpond Farm proposal via the WDC planning department’s e-mail address.
In conclusion I, and my fellow HFAG members, believe that the pre-application efforts by the developer to communicate news of the Horstedpond Farm housing project to the Town Council, local Parish Councils and the Uckfield community in general were extremely poor and, in the case of our own and neighbouring residences, i.e. those that will be most impacted by the proposed development, virtually non-existent. This, in turn, has significantly deprived objectors to the scheme of valuable time and opportunities.