Wealden District Council
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The Wealden District Council Strategy

Fields in Wilmington

Our Vision: Wealden is a place where people and nature thrive together.

Our Mission: Wealden District Council is to be an enabling and enterprising council working alongside our communities to create a greener, fairer, and kinder district for present and future generations.

In May 2023 Wealden residents elected a radically changed council. The Alliance for Wealden is determined to honour this desire for change, and so we have made this new Council Strategy one of our first actions in office. We are also determined to engage with all our communities and are developing new ways to do this. We will adapt and update this and other strategies as we learn more about what the communities of Wealden want and need.

We are lucky to live in Wealden, with its heritage of beautiful countryside, charming villages, bustling market towns, and areas of global natural significance like the Ashdown Forest and Pevensey Levels. We enjoy national parks, historic castles, vineyards, innovative nature restoration projects, artisanal crafts, and strong communities. But it’s not just our environment we should be proud of, our economy has a record of entrepreneurship, healthy growth and low unemployment and many of our residents are highly skilled.

At the same time, we face unprecedented challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss and government targets for building new homes and commercial premises. These combine with a historic lack of investment in our critical infrastructure to create a major challenge as we try to equip the district for an increased population.

In addition to these challenges, we also know that Wealden is like many rural districts in that we have areas with high deprivation, social isolation and we depend heavily on our cars for daily life. World events have increased the cost of living for everyone and some are struggling financially. Ill-health, physical and mental, is increasing.

To secure Wealden’s future, we have to change. We must strike a balance between adapting to change, preserving what we have and restoring what we have lost. This Council Strategy alongside a new Local Plan (the first draft of which we aim to publish in early 2024) sets the foundation for doing this.

This Council Strategy sets out the three areas we will prioritise in achieving our vision: the environment and climate change; community resilience and wellbeing; and the local economy.

To deliver on these priorities, we will ensure this Council is an innovative, efficient, value for money and financially responsible organisation; indeed, the Council will go on providing a wide range of essential services which are not described in detail in this strategy. We are keenly aware that funding to local authorities from national government has radically dropped. We must therefore find ways to generate income to support provision of these essential services.

Change is difficult, and collaboration and joint working will be key. We’ve already started this through the coming together of Liberal Democrat and Green Councillors to form the Alliance for Wealden to provide new leadership for the Council. Alongside our Council, many partner organisations (including national government, county council, town and parish councils, health and emergency services, local businesses, schools and colleges, voluntary and charitable sectors) provide the things and services which are, and will continue to be, essential to life in Wealden and we look forward to working with everyone to achieve our aims.

You elected us to get things done. At the same time, many things are not within our control and rules imposed by national government limit our freedom of action. We want to be a Council you can trust. And so, we commit to being

  • open – we will listen to your experiences, and your ideas, and always let your views inform our decision making and service design; 
  • honest – we will tell the truth about decisions we make, and we will explain when the system designed by national government doesn’t allow us to make the changes you want; and
  • transparent – we will explain council processes as clearly as possible.

Our priorities

Protecting our environment and leading the district towards carbon neutrality.

We are in a climate emergency. We know that residents are deeply concerned about loss of nature, pollution, and extreme weather. It is imperative we act now to radically reduce carbon emissions and restore nature, so that we limit climate change and mitigate its impact, whilst increasing residents’ wellbeing.

We aim to bring assets under our control to carbon neutrality as fast as possible, whilst enabling our communities to do the same. At the same time, we will prioritise restoration of natural habitats to increase the biodiversity upon which we depend.

CE1. Tackle the Climate Emergency:

We will update our Climate Change Strategy and action plan to deliver change that will lead towards our goal to be a carbon neutral district and ensure that everything we do has the least possible adverse impact on carbon production.

CE2. Countryside and Biodiversity:

We will work with local communities and partners to protect and enhance the district’s green infrastructure and biodiversity. We will safeguard local ecosystems and wildlife habitats by restoring nature reserves, wildlife corridors, and enforcing regulations against pollution and habitat destruction providing residents of all ages and abilities the opportunity to enjoy the local countryside for wellbeing and mental health

CE3. Active Travel & Sustainable Transport:

We will work with our county and regional partners to support development of an integrated transport network, prioritising walking, cycling, public transport and electric charging infrastructure.

CE4. Circular no waste economy:

We will develop the foundations of a sustainable circular economy – a system where materials never become waste. We will seek to minimise consumption and therefore reduce amounts sent to energy recovery. We will apply the waste hierarchy; prevent, reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and as a last resort, disposal.

CE5. Renewable energy:

We will increase the proportion of energy generated by carefully located and designed renewable sources in the district, exploring the possibility of community energy projects, and decarbonising existing networks.

Building strong, mutually supporting communities which are actively engaged in their own future.

Community resilience is a measure of the sustained ability of a community to use available resources to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations. To thrive through this period of change, we need each other. We must meet the needs of the many older people who live in Wealden.  More social connection increases quality of life and wellbeing for all generations, whilst resourcing us to respond effectively to change through mutual support. 

Everyone should be able to live a healthy and happy life whatever their background or situation. This requires access to decent and affordable housing, access to nature and leisure facilities, employment opportunities and healthy food.

We want our communities to be at the heart of decision making. Investing fully in systems and processes that allow us to properly engage, consult and co-design our services with our residents will be fundamental to this Council Strategy.

CW1. Community resilience:

We will work alongside communities and partners to help build resilience in our communities through a network of community associations and other community-led networks, with mental and physical health and wellbeing at the heart.

CW2.  Infrastructure:

We will work with the relevant providers so that our infrastructure is brought up to modern day standards and expanded to accommodate a growing population. This includes working with partners to improve access to mental and physical primary and secondary healthcare

CW3. Affordable Homes:

We will enable provision of truly affordable homes that meet the needs of our community and are of the highest possible environmental standards as well as investing in energy efficiency measures in our existing council homes.

CW4. Listening & Community Engagement:

We will strengthen local democracy and build trust in the council by developing a culture of listening and engagement to enable greater involvement of residents, communities and businesses in decisions on council services and priorities.

CW5. Leisure and Culture Services:

We will foster social connection and community cohesion for young people and people of all ages via a long-term plan for leisure and cultural services and facilities, ensuring everyone has access to good quality leisure and cultural opportunities that support physical, social and mental wellbeing.

CW6. Equality, diversity and inclusion:

We will embed equality, diversity and inclusion as a priority across the Council and the district with targeted support for those who experience the most disadvantage in our communities.

A growing economy which enables people to live well

We need a fair and stable economy which provides secure, satisfying and well-paid jobs for residents. We enjoy the advantages of quality of place, knowledge and skills of residents and strong business sectors such as farming and food production; engineering and manufacturing and knowledge-based businesses.

We will enable the creation of good local jobs, support our market towns and encourage our entrepreneurs and home-grown businesses, fostering locally led approaches to economic recovery and revival.

LE1. Community wealth building:

We will adopt the principles of community wealth building to enable growth by keeping wealth in the district; maximise the Council’s local procurement and encourage breadth and strength in our economy so people can work near where they live

LE2. Planning:

Working within the constraints imposed by national rules, we will carry out extensive engagement and consultation on and ultimately adopt a new Wealden District Local Plan that incorporates modern policies and strategies which support the priorities set out in this strategy. We will lobby government to change the planning system, recognising the concerns of our community.

LE3. Support local retail:

We will help town and village shopping areas to adapt to changes in retail habits so that they continue to be places which people want to visit and businesses can prosper and grow.

LE4. Support Local Land Based Industries:

We will support Wealden’s longstanding land-based industries by creating programmes to connect local consumers and producers and encourage consumption of locally produced food and drink.

LE5. Start, Scale & Invest:

We will champion existing local businesses, supporting small businesses to start up and grow. Promote Wealden to attract investment in key infrastructure and high-quality jobs with a focus on environmental technologies (making a rapid transition to the low carbon economy of the future)

LE6. Rural Tourism:

We will support rural diversification, knowledge-based, land based, food production, craft and creative industries and help our local visitor economy to adapt to a net zero future, and to encourage eco-tourism and increased local spend.  

LE7. Sustainable Construction and Retrofit:

We will work with partners to invest in skills and capacity in the local economy so that existing and new public and private buildings across the district can become low carbon, well insulated and energy efficient, existing buildings are retained and establish Wealden as a leader in the green economy.