The Core Strategy Local Plan comprises a long-term spatial vision and strategic objectives for the Wealden District area for the period 2013 to 2027, including the area within Wealden which is in the South Downs National Park. All subsequent documents produced as part of the Local Plan will build on the objectives set out in the Core Strategy.
Core Strategy Policy WCS 12 Court of Appeal Judgement 9 July 2015
On 9 July 2015 in response to a Court of Appeal decision the Council has made changes to its Core Strategy Policy WCS 12 relating to Ashdown Forest.
Prior to the Court of Appeal Judgement Policy WCS12 provided that any net increase in residential development between 400m and 7km would be required to mitigate its recreational impact through the provision of Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space (SANGS) and on-site visitor management measures.
The reference to the 7km zone of influence and the specific mitigation detailed has now been removed. The amended Core Strategy policy and text following the judgement is provided in the document below:
It is important to note that the conclusion provided by the Court of Appeal was arrived at with a degree of reluctance and the removal of policy wording is due to a matter of process rather than it being concluded that the 7km zone of influence or the requirement for specific mitigation measures (SANGS and on-site visitor access management measures) is incorrect. The removal of the policy wording is required because it has been concluded that the Council did not explicitly meet its duty under Regulation 12 of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Regulations relating to the assessment of reasonable alternatives.
What does the Court of Appeal decision mean?
Despite the removal of certain policy wording relating to the 7km zone and specific mitigation measures planning applications will continue to be subject to the Habitat Regulations which protect the Ashdown Forest Special Protection Area (SPA).
As a result all planning applications will be screened and if it is determined that an application either alone, or in combination with other plans or projects, is likely to result in a significant effect on the SPA, then an appropriate assessment will be required to determine the implications for that site in view of the site conservation objectives. Where the implications for the site are not known or they are uncertain then the precautionary approach must be applied.
It will be the duty of Wealden District Council to determine if any application will have a likely significant effect on the integrity of the SPA and whether suitable mitigation measures can be applied to mitigate the impact. Applicants will be required to provide relevant information in order for the Council to undertake an appropriate assessment including any required proposals for mitigation measures. Information may also be required from the applicant at the screening stage.
Further information on Wealden District Council’s position concerning the Ashdown Forest Special Area of Conservation (SAC)/Special Protection Area (SPA) and guidance for those applying for planning permission for small scale developments which could generate traffic movements on roads which pass through the Ashdown Forest can be found in Ashdown Forest Agents Information web page.