HFAG Rural / Farmland Loss Objection
Submitted to Wealden District Council by Bill Collison on behalf of the Horstedpond Farm Action Group (HFAG)
16 November 2022
“It is unavoidable that the proposed development would diminish the rural character of the landscape context of the farmstead.”
– Archaeology South East (ASE) document prepared for the Horstedpond Farm planning application
Horstedpond Farm is a little pocket of history untouched for hundreds of years. Once the manorial seat of Little Horsted, it includes a Grade II-listed house dating back to the 1600s, a large farmhouse and three other homes converted from farm buildings constructed in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Wrapped around by fields, hedgerows, streams and protected ancient woodland, this rural landscape has been home to a wide variety of local wildlife, including deer, badgers and owls, for hundreds of years.
The farmland has been farmed with subsidies in recent years and some fields are planted with wild flowers to encourage an expanding array of flora and fauna. It would be a contradiction to then build on this natural habitat, which forms part of an ecological corridor with the ancient woodlands and the nearby Millennium Green. Data kept by the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre SBRC) shows that 129 different species of birds have been sighted within a 1 km radius of the five existing Horstedpond Farm residences, while herds of up to 50 deer in the far fields are not an unusual sight. The extensive lists of plant and animal life in the Biodiversity Report compiled by SBRC for Horstedpond Farm have to be seen to be believed.
An Article 4 Directive was placed on the Horstedpond Farm site, including all the fields the developer is seeking to build homes on, in 2006 after Wealden District Council stepped in to halt the haphazard sale of small parcels of land then underway. In issuing the Article 4 Directive WDC was stating that the land should be protected from development and that its rural character of agricultural fields and hedges should be retained.
In addition to the proposed 400 homes, the Castlefort Homes development would encompass a new Lewes Road roundabout entry point, a 0.5 km long access road extending through the site, a public car park, attenuation ponds, footpaths and 6.6 hectares of impermeable surface. This development would not only completely encircle the five existing Horstedpond Farm residences but also obliterate the rural character of the surrounding fields.
With permission having been granted for the construction of 1,000 new homes on the Ridgewood Place estate directly across Lewes Road from Horstedpond Farm, and up to five other housing development proposals in the Uckfield area, residents are saying enough is enough. Members of the newly formed Horstedpond Farm Action Group (HFAG) are submitting a range of targeted objections to the scheme and rallying local support as part of an overall effort to stop the proposed development.
The Woodland Trust is another organisation that has strongly objected to the Horstedpond Farm development, not least because of the adverse impact it would have on two adjacent ancient woodlands. Their objection states: “The Trust objects to this planning application on the basis of potential deterioration and detrimental impact to Horstedpond Wood and Park Wood, two areas of Ancient Semi Natural Woodland designated on Natural England’s Ancient Woodland Inventory”. Their objection points out that humans and pets can cause disturbance to breeding birds, vegetation damage, trampling, litter and fire damage. Plus, the possible influx of a large number of new residents in what is a relatively small area raises issues of noise, light and dust pollution.
The Horstedpond Farm planning application submitted by the developer specifies a 15-metre buffer zone between Horstedpond Wood and the nearest houses. The Woodland Trust has stated that such a buffer zone would be totally inadequate and has called for a zone of at least 50 metres in width. If such a wide zone is not achievable within the developer’s masterplan, all the more reason not to allow the development to go ahead.
At the Uckfield Town Council’s meeting of 24 October 2022, councilors and residents raised a number of objections to the proposed Horstedpond Farm development. In several of these, concerns were expressed about measures deemed to be essential before the proposal could be allowed to proceed but about which nothing has, as yet, been done. For example, no method for preserving the historical medieval setting of the site has yet been documented or discussed.
In another example, the developer appears to be unaware that the roundabout entry to the site would be significantly higher than Fields 3 and 4, the first fields that would be encountered on entering the site on the new access road. The construction of a large retaining wall or earth embankment would be one way of accommodating the height disparity but such a wall or embankment would not only restrict the flow of the Ridgewood Stream when in flood (which happens during particularly heavy rainfalls) but also have an adverse effect on the functioning of the area’s flood plain.
The ongoing, long-term and disruptive nature of the work associated with such a large-scale house construction project would inevitably damage and disturb the nearby ancient woodlands as well as cause widespread disruption to the area’s biodiversity. Building schemes of this nature also impose hardships for prolonged periods on residents and their families well beyond the boundaries of the immediate construction site.
Uckfield Town Council and all the neighbouring Parish Councils have submitted objections to the Horstedpond Farm planning application based on sound and reasoned arguments and an intimate knowledge of the area and its inherent ability to accommodate developments of such magnitude.
The Castlefort Homes proposal for 400 homes at Horstedpond Farm is ill-advised and ill-suited to the area’s ecosystems. The imposition of such a huge housing project would destroy habitats, woodlands and waterways. Do we really have to lose another of our heritage farms to an opportunistic development such as this?