Wealden District Council
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Continual disruptions to water supplies

24 July 2023


Dear Councillor Partridge,

Please can you let me know, if in light of the continual disruptions to water supplies, Plus the almost impossible task of trying to get a doctor’s appointment in Buxted, there is a possibility that fewer applications to build yet more and more houses will be granted?

I only ask, as the way I see it hundreds of more residential buildings = thousands of more people and would appear to only make matters far worse. If you could respond with your thoughts I would be very grateful. Kind Regards, Denis Taylor.


Dear Mr Taylor,

Thank you for your questions about new housing and its impact on demand for water and doctors’ appointments.

The Alliance Group for Wealden’s number one priority is to deliver the right houses in the right places. Unfortunately, this is not completely within the control of the Council and is not going to be easy to achieve.

The roots of the problem are planning law and the number of houses which the government is saying must be built here.  I am afraid that these mean that, if the Council was to refuse applications for the reasons you suggest, which are very sensible, then the refusals would be appealed.  The Council would probably lose the appeals and have to pay the applicant’s costs, as well as its own.  This is not a good use of council taxpayers money and it would be wrong to take that risk.

We need the government to change these rules and frequently tell them that Wealden does not have the space or the infrastructure to support thousands of new houses.  In 2022, council leaders met with the Minister of Housing to urge the government to reduce our housing targets and I wrote to her successor about this last week.

This Council does not supply water and does not have any control over the companies which do.  We liaise all the time with South East Water about new houses. They have never said that they won’t be able to meet increased demand from proposed new houses .  We are moving forward with a new Local Plan, which will include action needed from South East Water (and, indeed, Southern Water) to provide water supplies and it will be interesting to see what their reaction is, when we discuss this with them.

Several years’ experience tells us that the water companies’ assurances are not entirely credible and last month Council members resolved that we should write to South East Water, asking for a full explanation of the causes of recent failures, and to the Minister for Housing, asking for a reduction in housing numbers until there is a long-term solution to the water shortage.  We await replies.  Please monitor our website and Wealden Weekly for updates.

Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are responsible for providing GPs and their surgeries.  CCGs are part of the NHS and not this Council. To my surprise, the planning system does not deal with how doctors are to be provided for planned development.   Sometimes, a CCG will ask us to secure land options to provide new facilities.  There is a recent high-profile example of that in north Polegate/Willingdon. However, it is then left to the market and/or CCG to take up the land option.  We have been holding an option to provide a medical facility in central Hailsham for a number of years now without interest from the CCG or the market.  Meanwhile, Hailsham has grown hugely.    I appreciate these examples are near Buxted, but I mention them to show the problems we face.

I am sorry for the long answer.  We are working to find solutions.  It would be so much better if the government would change the law so that lack of infrastructure would justify refusing planning applications.  I believe that this is the position in Scotland.

Best wishes Councillor James Partridge