SVC Campaign Story

The Campaign

All through the Summer and Autumn of 2016 we campaigned to publicise  the plight of the Vines Corner fields and the ancient Marklye Lane. 

We made two drops of flyers to the whole of Heathfield and parts of Mayfield. The Sussex Express featured several excellent articles about how important the sites are to Heathfield.

We placed two full page adverts in the Friday Ads newspaper which majored on our Barrister 's Opinion that the NPPF provides very strong grounds for Wealden District Council to refuse the planning application. 

Scroll down to the end of these pages to read: The Flyer,  our Barrister's Opinion, our Planning Consultant's Letter of Objection, our Independent Reports for Landscape and Highways and heavily critical objections from the Consultees.  

Parish Council Refusal Gives Hope

On 26th September Heathfield & Waldron Parish Council met to consider the Vines Corner and Parkands planning applications. 

The Heathfield Community Hall in Sheepsetting Lane was packed to capacity with all comers waving one of our flyers or our advert from the Friday Ads newspaper. 

Our three speakers stood up and challenged the application – and were heartily applauded. Cllr Roger Thomas spoke strongly against the Vines Corner and Parklands applications and was seconded – with an overwhelming vote to Refuse the applications.  

Application Withdrawn - BUT RISK Remains

In December 2016 Wealden District Council told Parker Dann and the 'Vines Corner Consortium' that it would be recommending Refusal of planning for the application.

The Vines Corner Consortium and Parker  Dann withdrew the planning  application for 212 houses at Vines Corner.

This was due to over 250 Objections from Heathfield Residents and major Consultees such as: Natural England,  the High Weald AONB Group, and from ESCC Highways.

The negative reaction to Vines Corner and the adverse newspaper publicity had been vociferous and unprecented ! 

Sadly - RISK remains that another application may be made for Vines Corner..... we need to see what the Wealden District Local Plan contains as development sites in Heathfield. So please read on.......

See downloads below to read: The Letter of Planning Application Withdrawal from Parker Dann. 

How Did Vines Corner Happen ?

The Loss of the Neighbourhood Plan

In 2016 we asked the Parish Council Planning Committee why no Neighbourhood Plan was in place for Heathfield.... We were told that it would take 2 years to construct and cost £30K.... and 'by the time it was approved it would be out of date'... they also believed that the Police Station Site with 112 houses would be sufficient to meet housing needs from Wealden District Council.

Yet an approved Neighbourhood Plan has strong advantages, it would enable H&W Parish Council to receive 25% of the CIL... the Community Infrastructure Levy which would be a big benefit to Heathfield... it would identify where Heathfield residents would accept housing development and equally importantly where they do not ! 

Such a plan should include open green spaces such as the sites at Vines Corner and areas for local conservation like Marklye Lane as they are precious assets which belong to Heathfield people and should be shared and enjoyed by all. 

Wealden District Local Plan

In February 2013 Wealden District Council issued the approved Core Strategy. At that stage Heathfield was considered unsuitable for major housing and commercial development being tightly bound by the AONB, with lack of residential and commercial development land and poor infrastructure.     

In October 2015 Wealden District Council issued the Local Plan Issues Options and Recommendations document which attracted over 2000 letters from Wealden residents heavily criticising and questioning it. It demanded that Heathfield accommodate 800 new houses.

By November 2015 the Vines Consortium was writing to Wealden District Council ostensibly in response to the Issues Options & Recommendations. This was lobbying under any other name..the letters show a concerted attack to downgrade the value and importance of the Vines Corner Sites which are part of the High Weald AONB. Strong demands were made that AONB land be 'released' for development  - and expounding the 'argument' that the need for housing is 'exceptional' and therefore the designation of AONB was effectively an inconvenience to development which should be removed. 

The Effect on Heathfield !

By early 2016 Wealden District Council declared a shortage of 5 Year Housing Land Supply - at the same time it heavily increased the required housing figures for the District from 9,000+ to just under 20,000 - inviting developers to come forward with proposals.  

Suddenly the issues about lack of suitable land and poor infrastructure in Heathfield seemed have 'evaporated'. In this climate and a few months after the Issues Options & Recommendation document was published Parker Dann put in the application for Vines Corner. It was rapidly followed by other applications along the A265 - for The Old Dairy, The Cart Barn, Parklands, Heatherlea, The Beehive. 

Through 2016 a 'feeding frenzy' of planning applications for 300 homes were made for Heathfield - all on the AONB and all except Vines Corner were approved.  

Note the red hoardings for the Police Station site which was approved in February 2014 ...  but work not started until well into 2017 !