Wealden District Council
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Wealden Local Plan

New Local Plan 

About the new local plan

We are preparing a new local plan for Wealden District, which will replace the current Local Plan. The new Local Plan will provide policies to shape our places, plan and manage growth in the district and guide development over a 15-20 year period. The local plan will ultimately be the key planning document against which we assess and make decisions on planning applications.

Friday 8th July 2022 – Local Plan update

As part of the plan-making process, we must set out a timetable for local plan preparation. This is provided in our Local Development Scheme (LDS), which was adopted on 22nd July 2020 by Full Council. Our current Adopted LDS sets out that we will undertake a Regulation 18 Consultation on a Draft Local Plan in spring 2022. Due to an unforeseen change in circumstances, we can confirm that the Local Plan timetable will now be revised (due to reasons outlined below) and we will look to update our LDS shortly, which will provide a new Local Plan timetable. We will also review the timetable for other planning documents as relevant to the Local Plan also.

The Local Plan is an important document and we have set out from the very beginning to progress our Local Plan as quickly as possible in order to meet the Government’s deadline of plan adoption by 2024 as well as to provide certainty to our communities, partners and developers on the future planning strategy for the District. However, on balance, there is too much uncertainty currently, which would directly affect our Local Plan strategy and the content of our draft plan for us to consult on a Draft Local Plan at this time. A summary of the issues we are currently facing are provided below.

Uncertainty in relation to the number of houses we are required to deliver

As it stands, Wealden District Council is required to deliver 1,212 houses per year under central Government’s arrangements for calculating housing need, known as the ‘standard method’.

Our Members over the past year have been meeting with Ministers and lobbying central Government to lower the number of houses that Wealden District Council are required to deliver in future years and we are aware that this is a policy area that is currently being considered by central Government. We anticipate that the Government will, over the coming month(s), provide new guidance in the application of the ‘standard method’ that will address the relationship between the levelling up agenda and the districts housing requirement.

We do not currently know what this will mean for the district in relation to housing numbers. However, we do know that it is pertinent to understand what the changes are and for any updated housing requirement to be considered as part of our plan-making process and included in our draft Local Plan. This will ensure that the plan we consult on is relevant, up-to-date, sound and robust and will not require later amendments to account for any future national changes to the housing requirement that we are aware is coming.

Uncertainty in relation to the Regeneration and Levelling up Bill (LURB) and new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

On 10th May 2022, a new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) was announced in the Queens Speech. The LURB sets out details of the Government’s planned changes to planning reform. The Bill proposes a number of key changes to the planning system, which will affect the way that local plans are produced as well as their content.

We are aware of the headline changes set out in the LURB. However, the details of the exact changes are due to be provided by central Government in the coming months.

During the second reading of the LURB on 8th June 2022, it was announced that a National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) ‘prospectus’ would be published in July 2022, setting out the direction of travel for changes to national policy. The Council considers that it is important to understand what the NPPF prospectus will contain and what this will mean for planning in Wealden, prior to consulting on a Local Plan, for similar reasons as stated above.

Local Plan revised timetable

Since the Direction of Travel consultation concluded in January 2021, we have been working with partners and consultants to gather evidence. We have published a number of evidence base documents that will inform local plan production. This includes a Local Housing Needs Assessment, an Economy Study, an updated Landscape Character Assessment, a Playing Pitch Strategy Assessment, an Open Space Assessment, a Gypsy, Traveller and Travelling Showpeople Study, a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment and visitor surveys at Ashdown Forest and Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) sites.

Whilst we wait for further clarity in relation to plan-making, we will continue to complete further key studies alongside our plan production that were programmed either later in the process or would require to be undertaken alongside the Local Plan, such as a Town Centre Study, an Indoor Sports and Facilities Assessment, a Visitor Accommodation Assessment, an Urban Capacity and Density Study and further landscape and sensitivity assessments. We will also continue to progress the Sustainability Appraisal and the Habitats Regulations Assessment alongside plan-making.

In relation to the Local Plan itself, we will continue to test and refine the Local Plan strategy and draft policies. Once we hear from central Government on the above critical matters, we will test and refine our strategy in accordance with the latest housing requirement and any other matters that will be critical to our Local Plan. This will assist us in continuing to progress the plan as quickly as possible once we are aware of changes to the planning system.

In relation to an updated timetable, this will be made available via an updated LDS in due course. This will be published once we have had an opportunity to consider the nature of planning reform, the impact this may have on the production of our Local Plan in relation to the time it will take to test and refine the Local Plan growth strategy and associated draft policies.

If you would like to receive updates about the Draft Local Plan and take part in the consultation process, please register using our consultation portal.  If you are already registered and would prefer not to receive information, you can remove your details using the same link.

Direction of Travel Consultation

The Direction of Travel consultation, that took place between 23rd November 2020 and 18th January 2021, was the first stage in our Local Plan engagement process. It provided an opportunity for us to hear the views of our communities, partner organisations and stakeholders on a range of important topic areas as to how the district should address the issues and challenges that it faces, accommodate growth and to help us define a vision for our district.

We asked a series of questions as well as provided an opportunity for you to tell us what you think on a range of planning related themes such as climate change, infrastructure, housing, the economy and employment, town centres, tourism, the natural environment, landscape, heritage and cultural assets, design and health and wellbeing. We also provided a number of high-level growth options to comment on.

We received over 1,700 comments to the consultation from 304 respondents. We have now reviewed all comments that we received as part of the consultation and we have provided a consultation summary report. We have also updated our Sustainability Scoping Report, which we also invited comments on during the consultation period. These documents can be viewed below:

You can view all responses that we received to our consultation via our consultation portal