Core Strategy Consultation on Strategy Directions 2008
PART 2 - SPATIAL STRATEGY
5. Overall spatial Development Strategy
Scope and Issues
5.1 This section considers how the vision should be carried forward in terms of the broad nature and scale of development and change across Rother District up to 2026.
5.2 It considers where the main areas of change, and restraint, should be. It also sets out broad development principles to guide the location of development.
Aim and Objectives
5.3 Rother's development strategy must 'conform' generally to the South East Plan's overall policies, its specific provisions for certain 'sub-regions' and its development targets. Their sound interpretation and application to Rother's particular needs and circumstances is critical to their success in helping to build sustainable communities.
5.4 The following aim and objectives highlight the main priorities in determining the pattern of activity and development across Rother District. They reflect both the strategic need for economic regeneration and growth of the coastal towns, especially for Bexhill (and Hastings), and the environmental sensitivities in meeting economic objectives and other community needs in Battle, Rye and the smaller settlements, and in the countryside. These include the imperatives of safeguarding the character of the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), conserving the biodiversity of international and national nature conservation areas and minimising risks of flooding.
5.5 Local area objectives and strategies are elaborated upon in sections 8 - 11.
Needs and opportunities for development and change
5.6 The South East Plan sets a requirement for Rother district to provide at least 5,600 net additional dwellings between 2006 and 2026. It does not set specific business or shopping floorspace requirements, although it does contain sub-regional jobs targets and broad principles to guide the scale and location of commercial activity.
5.7 Of the 5,600 dwellings (as a minimum) required to be built in Rother 2006 - 2026, the South East Plan looks for 4,000 of these to be in the coastal parts of the district (mainly Bexhill, but also covering Rye, Camber, Catsfield and Crowhurst), with the balance of 1,600 dwellings inland, covering Battle and all other rural wards. (Figure 5 shows the respective areas.)
5.8 The rate of housing development required by the South East Plan (equivalent to 280 dwellings/year) is akin to the earlier Structure Plan requirement over the period 1991 - 2011 of 275 dwellings/year. However, actual house-building between 1991 and 2006 averaged only 229 dwellings per year. A main reason for that under-performance has been the non-realisation of major road schemes around Bexhill that would have provided necessary highway capacity and enabled urban expansion. They would have also helped address the weak economy of the area, which has held back development in the Bexhill/Hastings area in particular.
5.9 While the South East Plan housing requirement represents an increase on past build rates, consideration needs to be given to the potential for housing levels in excess of (but not below) the 'minima' set by the South East Plan, not least to increase overall housing supply in the region.
5.10 There may be advantages in promoting higher levels of housing, to help housing affordability and support investment in new infrastructure and services, although a key factor will be the prospects for maintaining and improving the balance of homes and jobs, especially given the economic-led strategy for the Sussex Coast. As highlighted in Section 2: Spatial Portrait, there are also very significant environmental constraints.
5.11 More affordable housing is a local as well as sub-regional priority. The Council's Housing Strategy identifies a need for 92 affordable homes delivered via all methods, per year, including 25 in the rural area, from 2010/11. The South East Plan highlights the need to have regard to any backlog of unmet housing need caused by the failure to deliver sufficient affordable housing in the past. Backlog of housing need' is the number of households in unsuitable housing at a given point in time who cannot improve their situation by staying in their current home and who are unable to afford market prices. Research shows that while this is regionally significant, in Rother it applies to limited numbers. Therefore, it is considered the scale of housing proposed should address it.
5.12 The Council has already, through its Local Plan, taken a lead in seeking a high proportion (40%) of affordable housing in new developments, and in lowering thresholds. These may benefit from refinements to ensure that they target the distinct needs of different areas and sections of the community, as well as to get the best balance between deliverability and maximising supply.
5.13 For the Sussex Coast sub-region as a whole (from Rye to Chichester), the South East Plan sets a priority for sustainable economic growth and regeneration, and looks to 30,000 net additional jobs between 2006-2016. It further acknowledges that the areas of greatest need include Hastings/Bexhill, together with other parts between Shoreham and Rye.
5.14 An Employment Strategy and Land Review has recently been carried out jointly with Hastings Borough Council. This highlights the need for a "step change" in economic performance, as well as a need to significantly increase the supply of business accommodation to meet pent up and future potential demand.
5.15 It is concluded that a total additional supply of some 100,000sq.m. of business floorspace in Rother over the Plan period would be an appropriate target to improve the balance between homes and jobs and to meet economic objectives, with most development in the first half of the Plan period.
5.16 Having regard to respective employment roles and potentials of settlements, as well as local needs, it is envisaged that a large part of this supply will be through implementation of the mixed-use development sites at North East Bexhill already identified in the Local Plan. These will be supplemented as appropriate by new allocations at suitable locations, including via mixed-use developments, as part of redevelopment schemes and sustainable extensions to settlements in the District.
5.17 It is acknowledged that commercial property market conditions need to improve and that simply allocating sites will not be sufficient to bring about the step-change. Hence, as well as the importance of retaining existing employment sites, a holistic strategy response to stimulate economic activity is put forward in Section 11.
5.18 A District Shopping Assessment has identified some potential growth in each of the towns - Bexhill, Battle and Rye. For Bexhill town centre, the Assessment identifies a potential for some 3,400sqm (gross) of convenience goods floorspace and 6,300sqm (gross) comparison goods floorspace over 10 years. This would retain the town centre's role and, indeed, "clawback" some trade lost to Hastings and Eastbourne over recent years.
5.19 If their current market shares were to be maintained in the future, retail growth would be very limited for Battle and Rye. However, there is a substantial trade "leakage" from both towns, even for convenience goods. If more retail expenditure could be retained, then this would involve new or significantly expanded stores capable of providing a qualitative improvement in local retailing. Actual potential would require careful site assessments given the space and heritage constraints on town centre expansion.
Other community needs
5.20 Aside from affordable housing and jobs, local communities have varying, and inevitably specific, needs and aspirations for improved services and facilities. These have to be assessed at the individual area or settlement level, and can include open space and recreation facilities, access to education and supporting local shops as well as public transport.
5.21 Further detail of such needs and aspirations are contained in the respective town sections and, for parishes/villages, in the Rural Areas section and the background 'Rural Settlements Study'.
5.22 Availability of requisite infrastructure, or the clear prospect of it, is a critical consideration in determining the acceptability of development. This may be interpreted widely to cover "hard infrastructure" - roads, water supply, drainage - and community infrastructure - schools, leisure facilities, green spaces and other local services.
5.23 Progress in achieving certain planned infrastructure will be fundamental to the development of the strategy. Critical infrastructure in this respect includes:-
- The Bexhill Hastings Link Road
- The A21 Baldslow Improvement
- Additional water resources as proposed by South East Water/Southern Water, potentially including expansions to Bewl and/or Darwell reservoirs
- Capacity increases in the Hastings Ashford railway line
- A21 improvements
- A new Secondary School and a Vocation Skills Centre at Bexhill
- Implementation of the Pebsham Country Park
5.26 Of wider significance would be the negative consequences for the economic growth of the Hastings and Bexhill labour market area and the area's capacity for regeneration - which is the sub-regional priority.
5.27 A clearer picture will be available following the ongoing "refresh" of regional transport priorities to 2016 and submitting further transport advice for 2016-18. The Regional Transport Board is expected to conclude the Refresh in January 2009 and submit its advice to Government by end of February 2009. At this point, the strategy may be developed to reflect current "best estimates" but will need to continue to evaluate risks and develop contingencies. This is discussed further below.
5.28 Environmental factors have been very influential in setting the levels of development in Rother. High coverage by the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty limits major growth (it embraces all the inland parts of the district), while the eastern coastal areas around Rye are heavily constrained by nature conservation and flood risk designations. Bexhill is also constrained by the Combe Valley SSSI (which is also at flood risk) to the east and the Pevensey Levels to the west.
Scale of development
5.29 There is clearly a balance to be struck between the various objectives in determining the level of development appropriate to an area. For Rother, this involves looking at the needs and opportunities of individual localities and settlements as well as the overall situation.
5.30 The only place where environmental designations may allow a greater level of house-building is Bexhill. Indeed, South East Plan already presumes that the majority of development will be here. However, this is contingent upon increased transport capacity. Also, real improvements in the economy of the Hastings/ Bexhill area are needed for growth to be sustainable. There are also local environmental constraints. As explained further in the Bexhill section, the current level of growth is itself a "stretch" target and it is not considered appropriate to plan for an even higher level of development for the coastal part of the district at this time.
5.31 Elsewhere, detailed assessments of the market towns and villages confirm that it would not be appropriate to increase the development level arrived at through preparation of the South East Plan. It is clear that this level of rural development will already necessitate new development sites for a range of uses in many settlements. Robust policies for affordable housing, community facilities and in relation to design will be needed to ensure this contributes significantly to the vision for these areas.
5.32 Therefore, it is proposed that the Core Strategy should aim to accommodate the scale of development set out in the draft South East Plan. This should provide appropriate opportunities to meet community needs and aspirations in line with strategic objectives. This scale of development has been assessed against the Sustainability Objectives and found to perform well against the social and economic objectives, but has found there may be conflict with achieving the Government target of 60% of development on brownfield land.
Distribution of Development - Options
5.33 A key question is "How should development be accommodated and specifically what should be the balance between Bexhill, the small market towns of Battle and Rye and the many villages within the District?" This involves looking at local needs and potentials, and deciding what weight to give to different priorities.
5.34 The Local Plan process determined a distribution of development up to 2011 that places the main focus on Bexhill with more limited development at Battle and Rye, and the definition of 'development boundaries' for 35 villages (which provide for infilling and redevelopment) and some smaller allocations within certain villages which offer a good range of local services.
5.35 Five options for the distribution of development to 2026 have been assessed. The options represent alternative priorities/approaches to development and communities as a whole.
5.36 They are presented in terms of the (approximate) housing numbers under each option as below, against the total development requirement of 5,600 dwellings. However, it is emphasised that the assessment of the options, including through 'Sustainably Appraisal', looks at the broad range of respective economic, social and environmental implications.
|Option 1 - Population based||2,900||275||350||2,075|
|Option 2 - Service centres||3,400||500||500||1,200|
|Option 3 - Trend based||3,150||330||235||1,880|
|Option 4 - Commitment led||2,525||935||475||1,665|
|Option 5 - Housing needs based||2,720||920||1,100||860|
5.37 The above options accord with the South East Plan's splitting of Rother's housing targets between the South Coast Sub-Region area of the District and that within the "Rest of County" area (see Section 3). In making allocations, it will be recognised that the South East Plan allows for some flexibility around this split.
5.38 The distribution between villages is not prescribed at this stage. This is further considered in the 'Rural Areas' section.
Option 1 - Based on Relative Proportion of Current Populations
5.39 Essentially, this option apportions growth relative to current populations in each town and the rural areas. It would generally maintain the existing pattern of settlements and the relationship between them. Bexhill would be the location for just over half the growth to 2026. It also results in a comparatively high proportion development directed towards the rural areas.
5.40 While this distribution can be said to be equitable, it fails to recognise the greater accessibility to jobs and services of the towns, especially Bexhill, which has the greatest level of services. Also, it may place undue pressures on some villages to meet the share of the wider rural area, and which are themselves subject to significant limitations on development.
Option 2 - Based on Service Centre Role
5.41 This option apportions housing growth according to relative service role, so that growth is directed towards settlements that support a range of services, such as shops, schools, community, health and sporting facilities, etc.
5.42 As the main service town in the District, Bexhill is the appropriate location for a high proportion of new growth. The two small market towns of Battle and Rye are next in the service hierarchy, followed by the rural villages. It would follow that the split between villages would also be based upon the service centre hierarchy identified in the background 'Rural Settlements Study'.
5.43 Questions raised by the option include the capacity of Bexhill to grow at this scale, both in terms of jobs and infrastructure. Also, the environmental constraints on Battle and Rye may limit growth of their local service centre roles.
Option 3 - Trend-based Option
5.44 Option 3 directs future growth in the same proportion as has been exhibited in housing trends of development over the last 5 years. Hence, it reflects market forces to a large extent.
5.45 This option also results in a relatively high apportionment of growth to the rural villages (but less than Option 1), reflecting the high proportion of growth that has taken place outside Bexhill, Battle and Rye in recent years. It therefore poses similar issues of the continuing capacity for change in villages.
5.46 Also, while Bexhill has grown most in the last 5 years, this is largely due to a large increase in flatted development, which does not accord with creating a more economically vibrant town. This option begs the questions, "Is the trend sustainable?" and "Is the housing market reflective of employment opportunities?".
Option 4 - Extension of Current Commitments to 2011
5.47 This future distribution of housing represents the continuation of what is planned to happen over the Local Plan period to 2011. It is assessed by analysing large site commitments, past completion rates on windfall sites and the allocation of sites in the Rother District Local Plan.
5.48 Theoretically, Option 4 should have been expected to produce similar results to Option 2, given that they are both influenced by Local Plan policy. Indeed, the proportion of development in the market towns vis-�-vis the villages is similar. Bexhill is relatively low due to the considerable housing and employment growth earmarked for Bexhill being deferred to post 2011 because of the transport capacity constraint.
5.49 Battle's large outstanding Local Plan allocation at Blackfriars has an arguably distorting effect on its share, which would clearly be much larger than its service centre and employment role would suggest, certainly relative to Bexhill. Further developments of this scale would undoubtedly raise significant environmental and traffic issues. New business sites would be essential to support housing.
Option 5 - Based on Housing Needs
5.50 This option has been prepared in the light of Rother having one of the highest house price:earnings ratios in the region and given the level of local need for affordable homes. It is based upon analysis contained within the Housing Needs Assessment 2005. The Assessment was based upon a postal questionnaire of almost 5,000 households as well as other sources. The locational preferences expressed by 'concealed households' has helped identify the need by geographic areas.
5.51 This results in relatively low growth apportionment to Bexhill, but very high levels of growth being directed to Rye and Battle. Issues raised by this option are the extent to which it is appropriate to base policy on current housing need, given the limited job availability in the small towns and the cumulative effects of increased activity in their historic character and settings.
Distribution of Development - Preferred Option
5.52 An option based largely on Option 2 'Service Centre' is the preferred option based on an assessment against the strategic Vision and Objectives and in the light of Sustainability Appraisal (SA).
5.53 The service centre distribution option follows general principles of sustainability by seeking to locate new growth in sustainable, vibrant locations that offer a range of employment, services and facilities - thereby complementing community life.
5.54 Furthermore, as highlighted by the SA, this approach should assist in presenting opportunities to reduce the need to travel by car, thereby reducing emissions. It can also be said to promote healthy lifestyles by facilitating walking, cycling and access to leisure. It is also economically cost efficient by maximising the use of existing facilities and infrastructure and by reducing the need for new ones.
5.55 The SA however raises caution regarding the suitability of some settlements to accommodate the levels of growth that may be required by this distribution pattern. It suggests that where settlements need some growth to ensure their continued sustainability, they should not be overlooked in favour of larger towns or villages. Furthermore, the SA points out that in some instances, there may be unacceptable environmental and landscape impacts which limit the potential for growth in settlements which may otherwise be suitable.
5.56 This distribution is taken only as a starting point. There are also merits of other options that lead the preferred distribution to be amended. The relative buoyancy of both the housing market comes through in Options 3 and 4, while Option 5 is directly related to an aspect of local needs.
5.57 Rural communities in particular are keen to ensure that development in villages contributes to their character and sustainability of services, as well as meets local needs (including for affordable housing, play areas or community halls). Such factors are highlighted in the 'Rural Settlements Study'. Hence, development in rural areas should be set at a level which allows for more "organic" growth.
5.58 Bexhill has been identified for growth in the South East Plan. The strategy must acknowledge this, as well as the emphasis on economic improvement that should underpin it.
5.59 The degree of growth at Battle and Rye under Option 2 is moderated due to the high environmental factors that bear upon them.
5.60 Battle is not only heavily constrained by its historic form and AONB settings, but also by traffic congestion. While it already has a major housing development planned there are limited opportunities either for further employment sites in accessible locations or for retail growth in the town centre:
5.61 The opportunities for further development at Rye are very limited by its historic form and topographic setting, as well as the virtual enveloping presence of international nature conservation designations, the AONB and flood risk areas (which also affect parts of the town itself). The only broad locations for outward expansion pose local environment and access issues. Added to this, the town seeks to prioritise social and economic challenges and, like Battle, manage its very important heritage.
5.62 The limitations on the capacity of the towns and villages for further development can be balanced against the scope for development on the fringes of Hastings within Rother district, the potential for which has been assessed in consultation with Hastings Borough Council.
5.63 Development on the fringe of Hastings is seen particularly in the context of its potential contribution to the shared vision for regeneration and growth of the Bexhill/Hastings area. However, there are strong environmental and infrastructure constraints on this, although some potential is evident on the western fringes of Hastings in tandem with proposals in the emerging Hastings Core Strategy.
5.64 Further consideration to strategy emphases, and related growth potentials is contained in the relevant area sections. The Hastings fringes are considered alongside the Bexhill strategy.
5.65 In all cases, there is a general view that best use should be made of brownfield land before recourse is had to greenfield expansion. Also, the availability of infrastructure required to support sustainable development should be demonstrated.
Overall Spatial Development Strategy
5.66 The scale and broad locations for housing, employment and retail development in line with this strategy are set out in the respective area sections. In summary, these are:
Approximate development levels 2006-2026
|(Subject to detailed investigation of potential sites)||(Subject to ensuring broad distribution of job opportunities)||(Subject to site and, where appropriate, retail impact, assessments)|
|Bexhill||3,100 - 3,300 dwellings, including a further planned urban extension to the north of the town||60,000sq.m.||Convenience goods (2,500sqm sales) and comparison floorspace (4,0000sqm sales) to strengthen town centre role|
|Hastings fringes||200 - 450 dwellings in association with development in Hastings||10,000sq.m.||N/A (not proposed other than local needs of development)|
|Battle||450-500 dwellings||10,000sq.m.*||Convenience floorspace (1,000sqm sales) to retain more local trade|
|Rye||450 dwellings||10,000-20,000 sq.m.||Convenience goods (1,650sqm sales) and some comparison floorspace to retain more local trade|
|Villages||1,300 dwellings||10,000sq.m.||To meet local needs|
|Total||5,600 - 5,850 dwellings||100,000sq.m. (most in the first 10 years)||5,000sqm convenience sales floorspace|
5.67 The Key Diagram, which is at the end of the document, illustrates the main elements of the development strategy, including settlements identified as having development potential.
5.68 The level of housing growth is set as a range, 5,600 - 5,850 dwellings, the lower figure being the minimum set by the South East Plan and the upper level reflecting the existence of ranges for Bexhill and Battle, as well as limitations discussed above. This also provides a degree of flexibility when individual sites are assessed.
5.69 The above distribution is also expected to meet, and slightly exceed, the housing target set for 'Sussex Coast' part of Rother. This will help facilitate new employment development and, hence, seen as consistent with its regeneration emphasis.
5.70 While the amount of development planned in the inland, wholly AONB area is somewhat less than implied by the South East Plan, this flexibility is allowed under Policy SCT2 of the Plan. It is found to be a more sustainable distribution. The exact distribution will be refined when allocations are subsequently out forward.
Future Allocations and 'Windfall' Sites
5.71 The overall spatial strategy advocates a total of 5,600 - 5,850 dwellings. This will clearly need new land allocations, the potential scale of which is indicated in the respective area sections and in Appendix 3.
5.72 The table at Appendix 3 summarises the South East Plan housing targets together with the housing land supply position at April 2008. It also identifies a need to allocate further land for some 1,650 - 1,900 dwellings over the District as a whole. This assumes that existing Local Plan housing allocations, which must be reviewed via the Site Allocations DPD, are to be carried forward.
5.73 Further guidelines in terms of the distribution of development between the towns and between individual villages are set out in the subsequent sections.
5.74 Actual sites for new development will be set out in due course through a Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD). The release of allocations should not be withheld arbitrarily. However, there may be sound planning reasons to phase development.
5.75 Government Guidance expects that local planning authorities identify sufficient sites to meet its housing requirements for 15 years from the date of adoption, of which at least 5 years are capable of immediate development. This means that while sites with outstanding planning permissions contribute to the requirement, no allowance is normally allowed for future windfall sites. PPS3 states 'Allowances for windfalls should not be included in the first 10 years of land supply unless Local Planning Authorities can provide robust evidence of genuine local circumstances that prevent specific sites being identified'.
5.76 In fact, there is a strong track record in Rother of both large and small (essentially brownfield) windfall sites coming forward and these have made a significant contribution to housing supply. Definition of 'development boundaries' (as discussed further below) has aided this.
5.77 In these circumstances, great efforts will be made to identify brownfield sites as part of an ongoing 'strategic housing land availability assessment' with a view to allocations in the Site Allocations DPD that will follow on from the Core Strategy.
5.78 It is not anticipated that allocations will cover sites of less than 6 dwellings. The potential incidence of these will be further assessed when development boundaries are reviewed. The Council will continue to monitor and review their contribution to overall supply and the extent to which they may either reduce the need for allocations, impact on the need to release sites or provide a contingency for certain sites not being developed.
Bexhill Hastings Link Road
5.79 The prospect of construction of the Bexhill Hastings Link Road must be specifically considered as transport studies confirm the views of the highway authorities that significant growth, as envisaged by the South East Plan, for both Bexhill and Hastings, is reliant upon its construction to provide the necessary highway capacity.
5.80 The principle of the scheme was set out in the South Coast Multi-Modal (Transport) Study. The Government asked the County Council to consider alternatives for it, which were consulted upon in 2004. A preferred route was chosen as a result and detailed design work has progressed. A planning application was submitted in October 2007. A decision is due shortly, although this will be still subject to further statutory procedures.
5.81 The main outstanding risks to timely delivery are considered to be:
- Further delays in scheme preparation
- Further design amendments needed to meet objections
- Refusal of permission/Call-in by the Secretary of Stage
- Extended Inquiry process(es)
- Objections to Compulsory Purchase Orders
- Ability to meet full costs of scheme, including local contributions
- Extended contractor engagement process and construction period
5.83 It is concluded that the high level of commitment to the scheme by the County Council and the RTB, supported by the district Councils, gives a sufficient degree of certainty to plan on the basis of its timely construction. Notwithstanding this, the risks are such that regard must be given to the potential for slippage.
5.84 It is estimated that a delay in opening presently, scheduled for end 2012/Spring 2013, would have the following implications:-
|Delay||Houses not built||Employment floorspace not built|
|1 year||150||4,000 sqm|
|3 years||500||12,000 sqm|
|6 years||1,050||33,000 sqm|
5.85 The above estimates are based on studies undertaken for the North East Bexhill SPD on likely development rates, the Hastings and Rother Housing Market Assessment and strategic transport assessments for the LDF. They do not include developments in Hastings that are also dependent upon it, which are likely to be in excess of 1,200 dwellings and 10,000sqm.
5.86 The options, or contingencies, in the event of delay/cancellation are:
- Draw on other sites earlier than anticipated
- Allocate additional sites in other towns or in villages to be brought forward if necessary to maintain development levels
- Plan for a variable rate of development over the Plan period, being lower until the Link Road is built and then increasing to a higher than average level (but still achieving the South East Plan target by 2026)
- Planning for a lower level of development than set by the South East Plan at least in respect of Bexhill
- The levels of growth at both Battle and Rye are already comparable to Bexhill relative to their populations
- There may be a margin for more development than currently planned at Battle, but there are real congestion, AONB and infrastructure constraints to this, as well as growth being strongly objected to by the local community
- Rye, which is also in the Sussex Coast area, is considered to have no legitimate opportunity for further growth. The only area not covered by national designations, towards Playden, is for the greater part attractive rolling countryside of similar character to the High Weald AONB landscape adjoining it. Rye itself also suffers from congestion on the A259 through the town, which impacts on its historic character and creates a degree of severance
- Site assessments may (or may not) yield a level of growth towards the upper end of the ranges set for individual villages
5.88 Option 2 is therefore ruled out.
5.89 Option 1 may offer a course of action in the event of a short delay, but would most likely adversely impact on the continuity of housing supply in certain parts of the district and may lead to rapid, rather than "organic" growth of villages. This may also put a strain on local services.
5.90 Option 3 may be seen as a logical approach, although it would likely be difficult for Bexhill to grow at a rapid rate in the future unless Hastings has managed to secure real progress in economic growth in the interim. This is considered unlikely without the towns working in concert not least via the provision of strategic employment sites at Bexhill. It would also lead to uncertainty in the planning of other infrastructure.
5.91 Option 4 responds directly to the fact that the overall level of growth in Rother is based on there being major growth at Bexhill and that, if this were not possible, the justification for seeking the level of development, especially housing, in the South East Plan is removed. Because of the national importance of increasing housing supply, this approach would have to be robustly tested and alternative provision clearly shown to be unsustainable.
5.92 Several risks will diminish, or increase, as the scheme moves forward and a definitive set of assumptions could be overtaken by events. Therefore, even though it creates some uncertainty for the timing of other infrastructure, a series of contingencies are proposed.
5.93 These look to retain the reasonable focus of development on Bexhill, to make the most of the potential on the Hastings fringes (although this is also largely subject to the same constraint) and provide flexibility in the timing of development at the smaller, historic towns and villages while still ensuring that its scale is compatible with their own sustainable development and that of the High Weald AONB. For the reasons outlined above, re-allocating growth to those settlements would not be sustainable.
5.94 'Development boundaries' around settlements are a well established planning policy tool in East Sussex. They provide a clear and readily understood indication of where development would and would not be allowed in principle. Within development boundaries there is a presumption that infilling, redevelopment and changes of use will be acceptable subject to other policies of the plan.
5.95 They help to focus development and investment into sustainable locations and to protect against intrusive development beyond the substantially built-up areas of towns and villages.
5.96 Consideration has been given to whether to retain such prescribed limits, or whether to rely on a criteria-based policy. It is found that the level of certainty they afford, for all involved in planning, continues to be highly valued. Therefore, it is proposed to maintain the use of development boundaries. Current boundaries will be reviewed as part of the separate Site Allocations DPD.
Location of development
5.97 It is proposed to set out the following criteria, drawn from Government and regional planning policies, as the basis for site identification in the Site Allocations DPD.
5.98 The above factors would also be relevant in a development control context, although more specific criteria applicable to the consideration of the merits of detailed development proposals are put forward separately below.
General development criteria
5.99 Government statements of planning policy set out the main principles to be applied in the consideration of development proposals. These can helpfully be applied to the local context by providing a checklist of key development criteria. This has proven valuable in the current Local Plan to guide individual planning applications. The criteria set out below are akin to the present Local Plan Policy GD1.
5.100 The cross-cutting themes within subsequent sections of the document - relating to Communities, Economy, Environment and Transport and Accessibility - contain more detail in relation to some particular factors.
Infrastructure and Implementation
5.101 Infrastructure required to implement the overall spatial strategy is identified in the following respective area and thematic sections. The overall approach to implementation and monitoring is set out in the final section.
6. Bexhill and Hastings Fringes
Scope and Issues
6.1 Bexhill is by far the largest settlement in Rother, with a population of some 41,200 people. There is a very high proportion of older people and demographic trends indicate that this may become more pronounced. This reflects the combination of the seaside location, its particular history and now established character.
6.2 Within Bexhill, 33.5% of the population are aged over 65 years, which compares with 22.7% for East Sussex and 16.7% for the South East as a whole. The percentage of population aged less than 30 is 26.5% compared with 31.9% and 36.6% for the county and region respectively.
6.3 A correspondingly low proportion of younger people is also partly attributed to limited job and career opportunities locally. Average incomes are noticeably lower than county and regional levels, with most jobs in the public sector and local services.
6.4 The amount of business activity is small for the size of the town, with only Beeching Road and, to a lesser extent, Brett Drive forming recognised industrial estates. Hastings Direct is the one large private sector employer.
6.5 While the town's demographic profile, seaside character and built environment help give it a more genteel image, there are indications of a gradual decline in its economic well-being. This is most demonstrable in its falling rankings in terms of national indicators of deprivation.
6.6 Crime is relatively low, although there are still concerns about anti-social behaviour. Educational levels of the population are lower than local and regional averages, as is the proportion of people with no qualifications. The recent development of the University Centre Hastings, in addition to the Bexhill College, provides improved access to higher education locally.
6.7 As well as the future economic and population structure of Bexhill, there are issues around the level of growth that is appropriate, the future role of the town centre and priorities for the future well-being of its residents and in the fabric of the environment.
6.8 Development has been focussed on urban redevelopment in recent years, as limited transport capacity on the A259 to Hastings has frustrated new sites being developed. A high proportion of this has been flatted schemes, often for older people.
6.9 There has been little commercial development in the town centre, since the Council-led 'Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme' boosted investment in premises.
6.10 It is apparent that the prosperity of the town is closely linked with that of neighbouring Hastings. The relationship between the towns is reviewed firstly below. This sets the scene for the following consideration of the future role of Bexhill itself. Later in the section, and recognising the relationship between development and change in Bexhill and Hastings, specific attention is given to the 'Hastings Fringes'.
Shared vision for Bexhill and Hastings
6.11 A shared vision for Hastings and Bexhill has been agreed by the respective Councils and reflects an ongoing dialogue between the Councils about common issues and a recognition that strategies for development and change for Hastings and Bexhill need to be consistent and complementary, to be fully effective. Its objectives are carried forward in the strategies for both Bexhill and the Hastings fringes.
Aim and Objectives
6.12 The following aim and objectives are regarded as an appropriate framework to guide the strategy for the town. It emphasises its independent but complementary function vis-�-vis Hastings, as well as its own priorities for future well-being.
6.13 As well as meeting the changing needs of the existing populace, the strategy needs to look at ways in which to widen the appeal of Bexhill, with specific regard to the availability of jobs as well as housing, quality and accessibility of education and training, supporting active lifestyles.
6.14 It needs to address the town's relatively low incomes, primarily by increasing earning potential, but also recognise low household incomes, especially as many people are on fixed incomes. Parts of Sidley, and also Central Ward, fall within the worst 20% of areas in terms of certain indices of deprivation. The area is ranked poorly for child poverty in particular. Particular attention should be given to parts of the town that demonstrate forms of deprivation, to reduce economic disparities.
6.15 Bexhill has a good level of community activity. This should be further encouraged, particularly the role of the voluntary sector, which is especially valuable given the town's socio-economic profile and trends.
6.16 A further vital aspect of the town's character is the amenity provided by the quality of parts of its urban fabric and its green spaces. This latter will be consolidated by the implementation of the Pebsham Countryside Park. It is envisaged that this could be complemented by further accessible green space in the urban fringes.
6.17 The built environment of the town is generally attractive and distinctive, but would benefit from additional investment in several respects. The attractiveness of the town centre, commercially and visually, is a particular concern. It has suffered in recent years from competition from other centres and, as a consequence, has a relatively weak commercial market. However, additional retail investment potential (for both convenience and comparison goods) is highlighted in the background 'Shopping Assessment'. This is to be facilitated, so the town centre can effectively meet most of its residents needs for shops and services over the next 10 years.
6.18 Closely linked to the well-being of the town centre is the attractiveness of the seafront. The potential to better integrate the two through investment in both the public realm and sensitive commercial and leisure schemes will be promoted. The iconic De La Warr Pavilion will maintain its pivotal role.
6.19 Stimulating the market, encouraging local firms and attracting new investment and jobs, and improving infrastructure to support it, is a challenge, but must be a key part of the strategy. This also bears upon the town's ability to support sustainable growth.
6.20 Bexhill is identified in the South East Plan as one of only two parts of the 'Sussex Coast' that is not heavily constrained by national environmental designations. It therefore directs a proportion of the sub-region's growth towards the town.
6.21 Bexhill's aspirations' for its future role are critical to the approach to accommodating growth as well as to how it meets the aim and objectives for the town.
6.22 The Issues and Options consultation document raised three alternative approaches:
- Option 1 - Maintain Bexhill's role: (This looked to retain the town's current function and its relationship with Hastings.)
- Option 2: - Expansion of Bexhill's role (This proposed expansion of the town's function, making it a stronger centre for jobs and services, with a clear independent identity and a re-balancing of the demographic profile.)
- Option 3 - Coordinated development at Bexhill and on the edge of Hastings (Rather than focus on Bexhill simply in terms of its own urban needs and potentials, this proposed taking a holistic view of the needs and opportunities of Bexhill and Hastings, especially in terms of their combined potential for regeneration, with development well related to both.)
6.23 Sustainability Appraisal (SA) of the options highlights the positive effects for housing, health, social inclusion, accessibility and protecting and enhancing the character of the town of option 1. Option 2 presents significant opportunities for providing affordable homes, improving health, deprivation, accessibility, educational attainment and for meeting the regional aspiration for economic growth in the Sussex Coast sub-region. As might be expected with a higher growth option, there is a likelihood of adverse effects against the 'environmental' SA objectives. Option 3 may weaken the identity of Bexhill, and the option doesn't necessarily consider the holistic needs of Bexhill as its own entity, including its ability to address deprivation issues, educational attainment and town centre improvements.
6.24 It is concluded that the most appropriate strategy for Bexhill should be one that emphasises its independent but complementary function vis-a-vis Hastings, as well as its own priorities for future well-being, notably to become more attractive to families and young people. This is reflected in the aim for the town, as well as in the strategy direction.
6.25 Locational disadvantage clearly constrains the rate of growth in business investment and activity. These factors limit the ability for large-scale growth to be sustainable. Hence, while the strategy involves continued growth to support the town's role and improve its economic sustainability over the longer term (on the basis that infrastructure is forthcoming to enable this), its current economic health does not support planning for even higher growth at this point. This is reinforced by the uncertainties about infrastructure, local housing market conditions, and greater cumulative impacts on the town's character that would accrue.
6.26 As part of the overall distribution of development in Section 5, Option 2 put forward some 3,400 dwellings in the town over 20 years. This is considered further below. In the context of the Shared Vision, it considers options around Bexhill in the light of options on the Hastings fringes.
6.27 Housing growth at Bexhill should clearly contribute to the town's economic and social objectives. Business growth is key, and a target of 60,000sq.m. of new accommodation is promoted. Having regard to this and the other other locational factors highlighted above, the preferred housing target is for some 3,100 - 3,300 dwellings in Bexhill over 20 years up to 2026 (equivalent to 155 -165 dwellings a year).
6.28 The current development strategy already provides for a major urban extension to the north east of the town (including some 1,300 dwellings and 50,000sq.m. of business floorspace), although delays in securing permission for the Link Road on which it relies mean that development is deferred. It is still regarded as the most appropriate for the town, and more detailed planning guidance is being drawn up.
6.29 Taking account of this, as well as recent development, current planning permissions and other Local Plan allocations further allocations would be needed for up to some 1,000 dwellings. There is considered to be potential for part of this to be accommodated within the existing built-up area, notably around the town centre and other locations with high access to services. However, a substantial additional area(s) of land will need to be identified.
6.30 Transport assessments have shown that the planned Link Road is essential to any significant developments. Moreover, this provides the opportunity for more sustainable transport initiatives within the town, particularly along the A259 corridor.
6.31 Given the sea to the south and the marginal but critical open gap to Hastings to the east, the broad locational options of future growth are to north-east of the town, to the north, north-west and west. In order to assess the overall dynamics of potential change, options for major development locations around Bexhill are considered alongside those around Hastings below. These are further evaluated in the Urban Options Background Paper. Their respective merits are summarised below.
North East of Bexhill
6.32 Development to the north east of the town is still regarded as the most appropriate, and more detailed planning guidance is being drawn up. As previous examinations have concluded, it is well related to the urban area, accessible to the town centre and existing employment areas. It also dovetails with the planned Link Road and provides access to it from the north of the town. However, additional outward expansion would threaten the integrity of the strategic gap with Hastings, the planned Countryside Park and clear topographical limits.
North of Bexhill:
6.33 This relates to land stretching north westwards from the proposed North East Bexhill development towards the A269 Ninfield Road. It is rolling farmland, divided by several areas of ancient woodland. Landscape assessment shows that areas to the east have greater visual containment. Key considerations are that development would need to link to the proposed 'country avenue' serving the existing allocation in the area of Preston Hall Farm. This and the A269 would provide good connections to the built-up area. However, large scale development would impact on links to the south and on the A259. It may also threaten to absorb The Thorne and Lunsford Cross into the built-up area.
6.34 Development extending west of the A259 would assist in providing the transport infrastructure regarded as essential to the planned landfill use of the Ibstock site without impacting on Sidley. Also, access to the existing major employment allocations are improved from the west and south.
West of Bexhill6.35 This includes land extending westwards from Little Common, both north and south of Barnhorn Road (A259). Potential development is defined clearly by the Flood Zones extending from the Pevensey Levels. Access would be off, or via existing estate roads to, the A259. Development may extend well northwards, although there is no main access road to the development area, being served only by the Whydown Road from the west and Sandhurst Lane from the east.
6.36 The key issue for this whole area is the capacity of the A259. Highway assessment shows that to accommodate any scale of development would necessitate the construction of a new road linking the A259 to the A269 and hence to the Link Road. This may be a development road in large part, but not entirely because of the need to maintain open land, floodplains and woodland. Development may increase run-off to the Ramsar Site and impact on its water management regime.
6.37 The area comprises pleasant, pastoral countryside, with a patchwork of fields separated by small woods and strong hedge lines, similar to the High Weald to the north. Areas to the west are more exposed in the wider landscape.
6.38 It is concluded that, while more detailed work is needed in order to determine land allocations, especially in relation to traffic impacts, landscape, and flood risk, the most appropriate broad location for medium/longer term strategic growth is that adjoining (i.e. to the west of) the allocated area north of Sidley. This area should be developed in association with an extension of the 'country avenue' from the Link Road to A269 and, hence should follow development of the already planned development.
6.39 The key spatial elements of the strategy are shown diagrammatically on Map 2.
6.40 As noted above, the built-up area of Hastings extends in most part up to the Borough boundary, with a number of its peripheral areas extending over into Rother District. Consideration has been given to policy directions for these urban fringes that would help support the Borough's aspirations, as well as help meet needs of Rother's residents and businesses in these areas.
6.41 Generally, these fringe areas are heavily constrained, principally by AONB designation. It is also important to retain effective countryside gaps between Hastings and Battle and the nearby villages. Development is also limited by access and topographical factors. In particular, further development off The Ridge would likely increase congestion at key junctions and on town centre approaches unless jobs and services were highly accessible by non-car modes of transport. Also, although physically close to a large service centre, many peripheral areas relate far more to their rural surroundings than to the town and are important to its setting.
6.42 The areas of significant development potential that do not encroach into the AONB on the edge of Hastings are land south of the Battle Road, in the area of Breadsell Farm, and in the area of Upper and Lower Wilting Farms.
6.43 Hastings Borough Council has proposed a major allocation of land just within the Borough boundary, which runs to the south of Battle Road, for some 1,000 houses and associated business space. Land fronting the road is within Rother District and forms part of the Strategic Gap
6.44 between Hastings and Battle, and is prominent open ground rising westwards. Land to the rear slopes south-eastwards towards from the ridge towards the Marline valley.
6.45 Land at Breadsell Farm was considered in 2005 by the Local Plan Inspector, who did not support its development as it is poorly related to services and facilities in Hastings, as well as being attractive open land within the strategic gap to Battle.
6.46 However, to implement Hastings' preferred location for future major development which lies to the rear of this area would necessitate access through it. Such a scale of housing as well as significant employment land as is envisaged, should ensure local services to help address the remoteness issue. Close control over the extent, land use nature and treatment of any development close to the Battle Road within Rother District may mitigate the environmental objections. However, such an intrusion would only be justified as an integral part of a larger scheme.
6.47 Hastings Borough Council also supports development in the Wilting area. Development in this area is seen as supporting economic regeneration of the town, particularly if a new station were built. However, land in this area is visually exposed and also limited by the flood risk area. It would also erode a Countryside Gap, between Hastings and Bexhill/Crowhurst, a well as involving the loss of part of the Countryside Park.
6.48 Land in the Wilting locality is subject of several constraints as noted above. Any large scale development in this area is found to have substantial landscape impacts, as well as the substantial erosion of the 'countryside gap' to Crowhurst, the sensitivity of which will increase with the establishment of the Countryside Park and the construction of the Link Road. Associated traffic movements would also be significant, especially on local roads into Hastings.
6.49 The only area where there may be development potential is close to the railway to the south of Crowhurst Road. However, it is considered that the only real rationale for this incursion into the countryside gap to Bexhill and the proposed Countryside Park would be if development, which would inevitably be limited in extent, were associated with a new parkway railway station.
6.50 Such a station would serve west and north Hastings as well as Bexhill, and take the pressure off Battle station. Further work on the potential for a station is currently underway and it is proposed to keep the option of development in the area open at this time. As well as the development issues raised by this option, further attention will need to be given to the possible effect on Crowhurst station.
6.51 Transport assessments indicate that large scale development in either area would be dependent on both the Link Road and Baldslow Improvement. These schemes are both integral to the Shared Vision.
6.52 Elsewhere, development opportunities are regarded as very limited for the reasons stated above, although further attention will be given to smaller sites through the Site Allocations DPD.
6.53 Work undertaken by Hastings Borough Council on open space indicated various potentials for green space on the town's fringes. In view of the joint working on the Countryside Park, and given some similar potentials at Bexhill, a joint 'urban fringes strategy' is proposed. An area of particular potential for a joint urban fringe management approach is that either side of the railway as it approaches The Ridge, with Rock Lane to the east and Ivyhouse Lane to the west.
6.54 The key spatial elements of the strategy for the Hastings Fringes are shown diagrammatically on Map 2 - Bexhill and Hastings Fringes Inset.
6.55 The principal infrastructure integral to the strategy for development at Bexhill and the Hastings fringes is:
- Bexhill Hastings Link Road
- Improvements in bus and cycling facilities
- New railway station at Glyne Gap (subject to further study)
- Pebsham Countryside Park
- New junction on Link Road and connection to Wrestwood Road
- Reinforcement of electricity supply
- New secondary school at Bexhill
- New primary school to north-east of Bexhill
- New leisure centre
- Green spaces, notably along urban fringe valleys
- Public realm improvements, to the town centre and seafront
- New railway station at Wilting
- Baldslow Improvement (due to combined requirements of development in Hastings)
- Urban fringe management scheme Implementation
- Identification of sites in the Site Allocations DPD
- Adoption of the North East Bexhill SPD
- Joint Area Action Plans (with Hastings Borough Council) for major developments at Breadsell and at Wilting
- Investment plans of public bodies and utility providers
- Private investment, notably by developers and businesses
- An up-dated and holistic Local Area Transport Strategy for Hastings and Bexhill (which will form part of the LTP)
6.58 The following table identifies the main lead agencies with whom the Council would be working in partnership.
|Strategy Area||Lead Agencies / Partners|
|The Economy||RDC; Seaspace; Locate East Sussex; 1066 Enterprise; landowners;|
|Services and Community Development||ESCC; RDC, Voluntary sector|
|Environment||RDC; Pebsham Countryside Park Board; EA; NE; Sussex Wildlife Trust|
|Accessibility||ESCC; Highways Agency; RDC; transport operators|
|Town Centre||RDC; ESCC, developers and retailers;|
|Development and Housing||RDC; Utilities Companies; landowners, developers; Registered Social Landlords (RSLs)|
|Urban fringe management||RDC; HBC; Wildlife Trusts; NE;EA; landowners; developers; Pebsham Countryside Park Board;|
|Accessibility||Network Rail; train and bus operators; ESCC; RDC; HBC; Task Force;|
|Development and Housing||RDC; HBC; landowners, developers; RSLs|
Scope and Issues
7.1 Battle is a small, historic market town of some 5,000 people. The whole town of Battle and the immediately surrounding countryside is within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
7.2 The town centre, Abbey and Battlefield form the historic core designated as a Conservation Area since 1970. Battle provides an important service centre role for its residents and those of surrounding villages.
7.3 Due to the way Battle has developed over the centuries in a linear fashion along one of the principal High Weald east-west ridges, it is visually exposed in the landscape. It also suffers from congestion as traffic is channelled along the ridge through the town centre.
7.4 These factors give rise to the main areas of policy debate which concern identifying how growth will be provided for, meeting the expectations of its service centre role, and working within the context of very high environmental constraints on development, including addressing the key issue of traffic congestion, car parking and primary school provision. It will also be necessary to address issues relating to the provision of employment, retail, recreation and medical care.
Aim and Objectives
7.5 The following aim and objectives are regarded as an appropriate framework to guide the strategy and emphasise the priorities for the future well-being of the small historic market town of Battle.
7.6 The South East Plan recognises the social, economic and cultural importance of small market towns to the wider rural areas they serve. There is a need to foster economic vitality and appropriate development, including affordable housing.
7.7 A key element of the strategy for Battle is the balance between supporting the quite buoyant market town role and respecting its environmental constraints.
7.8 It is clear that the combination of its AONB designation, historic core and accessibility limitations, make a high level of future growth for Battle inappropriate. This position was presented during consultation on Issues and Options, and this was accepted.
7.9 Therefore two options were considered, option 1 for 'limited growth' largely within the existing development boundary, and option 2 that would see 'continued development to support the town's role'.
7.10 Assessment of the options against the sustainability and plan objectives has shown that Option 1, whilst meeting most objectives, would not enhance the commercial and tourism attractiveness of the town. Also, given the development requirements on the inland parts of Rother, for which Battle is a local service centre, it may fail under this option of making an appropriate contribution to meeting that requirement, with more onus on villages.
7.11 Option 2 could meet all the objectives of the Strategy. However, the scale of development, which would be over and above that already planned at Blackfriars, would need to be subject both to prior resolution of congestion problems and demonstration of satisfactory environmental impacts.
7.12 Therefore, careful implementation of a "continued development to support the town's role" scenario would provide the most benefit to Battle in terms of recognising its role and providing for local economic, housing and community needs.
7.13 However, as such an option is likely to require extension to the current development boundary, it is considered prudent, given the currently outstanding environmental issues, to present a range for future development. This allows for a somewhat lower level of development if these issues remain or cannot be adequately addressed. It also responds to local views.
7.14 The level of housing growth for Battle, identified by assessment of the District-wide spatial distribution options and based upon the relative service roles of towns and villages in the District (i.e. Option 2), suggested approximately 500 dwellings to Battle over the Plan period (an average 25 dwellings per annum).
7.15 As Appendix 3 shows, this level of growth is achievable over the Plan period largely through outstanding commitments as well as unimplemented allocations mainly at Blackfriars that are intended to be carried forward. Taking these figures into account, there would remain a further need to find land for some 140 dwellings to be built between 2008 and 2026.
7.16 Opportunities for infill and redevelopment will be maximised, but there is likely to be a residual requirement for modest peripheral growth. This would be reduced to about 90 dwellings if the lower end of the range were set at 450 dwellings in total over the Plan period.
7.17 As part of the spatial development strategy, a number of sectors within Battle have been looked at with a view to determining which offers the most prospects for development that meet the objectives and general locational criteria.
7.18 To discourage unnecessary use of the motor car, locations within walking or cycling distance of the centre are favoured. However, the most central locations - the historic battlefield to the south west of High Street and the open land, around Little Park Farm (including National Trust land) to the north east of the High Street - should remain free of development, effectively maintaining the 'dumbbell' shape of development at Battle.
7.19 The five sectors have been defined as:
- Land south of North Trade Road, west of High Street and north of the historic battlefield.
- Land north of North Trade Road and west of London Road (A2100).
- Land east of London Road (A2100), north of High Street and west of the open land around Little Park Farm.
- Land north of Hastings Road (A2100) and east of the open land east of railway. (This area includes the Blackfriars development.)
- Land south of Hastings Road (A2100) and east of the historic battlefield.
7.20 Subject to further investigations, sectors 4 and 5 offer most potential for sensitive and sustainable development in the longer term. These have the advantage that transport/highway issues, together with the provision of other services and facilities may be better addressed by development here than elsewhere. These areas are within easy walking distance of the main line railway station. Development would rely on improving bus services between Battle and Hastings and improved parking on the eastern side of the town centre.
7.21 These areas also contain locations that do not intrude unduly into the wider countryside. It is recognised that Sector 5 encroaches on to land currently included within the Strategic Gap between Battle and Hastings. While their separation, to protect their individual character and setting, is regarded as of strategic importance, it is considered that some development may be achieved without compromising the openness or effectiveness of the gap, or otherwise be obtrusive in the landscape.
Other strategy elements
7.22 As well as the need to fulfil the housing requirement
and make necessary allocations, the strategy should address
other important issues identified above:
7.23 The 2005 Housing Needs Survey shows that Battle has a significant local housing need. The level of proposed development, coupled with effective affordable housing policies (see section 9) should greatly assist affordable housing to come forward.
7.24 Outside the town centre, there are currently relatively few areas of notable business development within the town, the most significant being Station Approach, which has a mix of uses. The town relies on nearby Hastings as well as smaller sites along Marley Lane for a stock of business premises.
7.25 There is potential to increase space along Marley Lane. New space for employment is expected to come forward, as access restrictions are being overcome. An A21 junction improvement has been agreed, as has funding contributions between partners, including SEEDA. This will particularly improve the feasibility of development on Marley Lane close to the A21 which has planning permission and the rationalisation and the already planned expansion of Rutherfords Business Park. .
7.26 New development also provides the opportunity for business accommodation within the town itself. The Core Strategy therefore will promote employment in suitable locations to reduce reliance on the 'out-of-town' employment areas at Marley Lane, as well as those at Beech Farm off Netherfield Road and Whitehouse Poultry Farm, near Netherfield.
7.27 The office market, generally does not currently justify commercial investment. However, 1,000sq.m. of office space has recently been developed at Station Approach in a mixed use redevelopment including housing and community facilities. It is considered that this area has potential for further redevelopment/site rationalisation. It has a good location adjacent to the railway station.
7.28 The Employment Strategy and Land Review indicates that when the total employment requirement is disaggregated, of the order of 10,000sqm of land for employment is appropriate for Battle to 2026. Some 7,000sqm is currently available (at the Blackman, Pavie and Ladden site, Marley Lane - 2,400 sqm; land west of DB Earthmoving site, Marley Lane - 1,900sqm, and land at Rutherfords, Marley Lane - 2,700sqm), leaving a requirement for a further 3,000 sqm.
7.29 This is an appropriate target both to secure further land/premises for employment use at Station Approach and, potentially as part of new mixed-use developments.
7.30 For bulk main food shopping most Battle residents choose to travel to the large food stores in Hastings/St. Leonards. The total retail floorspace for Battle is 11,000sq.m. The sales area of Budgens/Jempsons supermarket is 650sq.m. and that of the Co-op supermarket is 190sq.m.
7.31 The Retail Study considered the convenience goods floorspace potential of Battle and concluded that it could improve the amount of trade retained in the town, from 17% to 60%, the potential uplift recognising Battle's proximity to the large foodstores at St. Leonards. To achieve this, 1,350sq.m. (1,000sq.m. sales area) gross additional floorspace would be required.
7.32 It could be achieved either by way of a new foodstore or an extension to one of the existing smaller supermarkets within the town centre. However, there are major limitations in the scope for new development within the town centre and the wider urban area of Battle. Further work is clearly necessary to assess if this target is realistic and compatible with environmental factors, not least maintaining the character of the historic core.
7.33 ESCC (Childrens Services) has advised that the Local Plan primary school allocation at Blackfriars is no longer required and therefore it is not necessary to carry it forward to the LDF. Instead it is proposed to construct a permanent extension to the existing Battle and Langton Primary School. However, Early Years facilities are still needed. Consideration is being given to utilising part of the current primary school allocation site for Early Years facilities and for the remainder of the site to be used for other community/educational facilities.
7.34 Claverham Community College provides secondary education for 11 to 16 years olds. ESCC (Childrens Services) has advised that additional housing will impact on secondary school provision, by more out-of-area pupils not gaining places at Claverham Community College. The College will feature in the forthcoming Building Schools for the Future programme and this will include consideration of its future size. Transport and Car Parking:
7.35 More people at Battle are dissatisfied with car parking facilities than any other facility. Traffic congestion, in and around the High Street has been seen as a major issue for many years. In the past, a bypass has been proposed as has rear vehicular access to serve the shops in the High Street. These proposals have been dismissed as environmentally unacceptable or for practical reasons.
7.36 The main thrust of the ESCC Battle Local Area Transport Strategy (LATS) is to improve accessibility by alternatives to the car. However, it does not fully address car parking at facilities, which 31% of people responding to the issues and options consultation identified as being poor or very poor.
7.37 It is concluded that additional off-street car parking needs to be identified. If practicable, this should be on the south-east side of the town centre, so as to provide a better balance across the town.
Open Space, Sport and Recreation:
7.38 In June 2007 the Council approved, adopted and received an audit and assessment of Open Space, Sport and Recreation for the District. The main findings in respect of Battle are:-
- Consideration to be given, in the longer term, to a new swimming facility
- Consideration to be given to new provision for children and young people as part of the housing development at Blackfriars, at Glengorse playing field, Great Wood and around the Old Mill in north Battle
- To concentrate on qualitative improvements to existing natural and semi natural open space sites, and to amenity green spaces
- To provide, subject to demand, a new allotment site in south Battle, through new provision or the reallocation of existing provision
7.39 The tourist centre role of this market town will be maintained and enhanced, consistent with its important historic and environmental character and setting. The town remains dominated by the Abbey, built to acclaim William's victory in 1066, but also has many fine listed buildings. The historic battlefield site, which extends to the south of the Abbey is a protected heritage site. The town is a part of the tourist destination '1066 Country'.
7.40 The Martins Oak surgery will need replacement within 3 to 5 years. The Primary Care Trust will work with the practice and the Local Planning Authority to identify a new site and allow a smooth transition to new purpose built premises, potentially to include a new or relocated pharmacy. It should have a floor area of 600sq.m.
7.41 The implementation of this strategy will be supported by appropriate physical, social and 'green' infrastructure. The Council working with its partners, identified in the table below, will ensure that the timely provision of necessary infrastructure accompanies new development.
7.42 The following list is by no means exhaustive but identifies infrastructure requirements that are currently known. Other requirements for infrastructure will be better understood as investigative site-based work is completed.
- Utilities connections for gas, electricity, water supply and wastewater for existing and new allocations
- Manage change and improvements to Conservation Area
- Road and junction improvements in accordance with Battle LATS and Highways Agency such as Marley Lane/Upper Lake junction; Powdermill Lane/Lower Lake/Station Approach junction; and Marley Lane/A21 junction
- New cycle routes
- Primary School and Community College
- Replacement Martins Oak surgery
- New and improved recreation facilities
Implementation7.43 This strategy will be implemented through:
- Site Allocations DPD
- Subsequent guidance in further Local Development Documents
- The determination and monitoring of planning applications and appeals
- Direct partnerships working with landowners, developers, statutory agencies, Registered Social Landlords, transport operators and the local community
- The use of planning obligations
- The implementation of the Battle Local Area Transport Strategy
- The implementation of Highway Agency improvements
7.44 The following table identifies the main lead agencies with whom the Council would be working in partnership.
|Strategy Area||Lead Agencies / Partners|
|The Economy||RDC; Battle Partnership; Battle Town Council; Utilities Companies; EA (input on flood risk); landowners|
|Services and Community Development||ESCC; RDC, Battle Town Council, Bexhill & Battle PCT|
|The Environment||RDC; EA; Southern Water|
|Accessibility||ESCC; RDC; transport operators|
|Town Centre||RDC; ESCC, Battle Town Council|
|Development and Housing||RDC; Utilities Companies; EA (input on flood risk), landowners, developers, Registered Social Landlords|
8. Rye and Rye Harbour
Scope and Issues
8.1 Rye is a small historic town with a population of some 5,000. It is a Cinque Port town. Today, the Port of Rye includes Rye Harbour and Rye.
8.2 The town centre around and including the ancient Citadel, forms the historic core designated as a Conservation Area since 1969. The town's visual appearance is a function of its unique geographical and geological situation, with the Citadel on a sandstone outcrop rising like an island above the low-lying surrounding salt-marshes.
8.3 Rye Harbour is effectively a satellite village of Rye, requiring travel through Rye to access it. Residents of Rye Harbour use the services and facilities of Rye for their day-to-day needs including the post office, primary and secondary schools. Hence, Rye and Rye Harbour are considered together.
8.4 The main areas of policy debate are how to address Rye's relatively poor social and economic conditions, meeting the expectations of its service centre role, and working within the context of very high environmental constraints. Development and change at Rye is also to be considered in the context of its relative remoteness.
8.5 A summary of the social and economic issues, the main environmental constraints and assets is presented in a bulleted list below:
- A rich architectural and archaeological heritage (300 listed buildings, 10 Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Rye Conservation Area (focussed on the Citadel area) and 3 Archaeologically Sensitive Areas)
- Internationally recognised ecological assets (covering much of the level land to the south east, south and south west of Rye) and a partially designated landscape setting (AONB on the northern side)
- Vulnerability to flooding (the Strategic Flood Risk Assessment identifies flood risk at Rye to be very complex, with some parts susceptible to tidal flooding, some to fluvial flooding, some to surface water flooding and some parts to all three types)
- High unemployment (2001 Census) relative to the rest of the District and County
- Mean household income below District and County averages (2001 Census)
- High levels of child poverty (indicated by the Index of Multiple Deprivation)
- Limited access to a choice of affordable housing (as evidenced by the Housing Needs Survey 2005)
- A high volume of out-commuting for convenience shopping (evidenced by the Shopping Assessment 2008 - survey results show that Rye town centre only retains 10.5% of main food shopping trips)
- Relative remoteness - the effectiveness of the rail and trunk road (A259) as strategic links is constrained
- Congestion - A259, by virtue of its route and the volumes and nature of traffic using it, also acts as a barrier to movements across parts of the town.
Aim and Objectives
8.7 The aim and objectives presented in the box below are regarded as an appropriate framework to guide the strategy for Rye and Rye Harbour. They emphasise the market town service centre role alongside the rich cultural and ecological assets of the Citadel and surrounding landscape. They have been subject to Sustainability Appraisal to ensure they are in accordance with sustainability principles.
8.8 The primary aim for the area is to improve social and economic conditions whilst enhancing the environment and quality of life for residents. This relates to facilitating growth of existing commercial enterprises and local industry and particularly the Port of Rye, which has potential for increased commercial activity and is the only location in Rother where industries that need access by water can be developed.
8.9 Social and economic conditions are currently exacerbated by a lack of choice of affordable housing and the seasonal and low-income nature of jobs associated with the tourism industry.
8.10 The town has recently benefitted from the creation of a new primary school, and further consideration is also being given to lifelong learning opportunities.
8.11 The tourism industry as a whole accounts for over 700 jobs (approximately 30% of jobs) in Rye and its hinterland and is an important aspect of Rye's economy. The majority of these jobs are in the accommodation and food and drink side of the tourist industry, with only a small number involved in tourist activities and attractions.
8.12 The countryside surrounding Rye and the Nature Reserve at Rye Harbour presents the opportunity to develop green tourism in Rye which is not being capitalised upon. A project is currently being developed - Romney Marshes Living Landscapes - which is looking to foster environmental tourism and conservation in the area.
8.13 There is the potential to develop general industry in the Rye Harbour Road Industrial Area. The industrial area is under-utilised and has the potential for regeneration which could enhance land-based and waterborne trade.
8.14 In light of Natural England excluding the area of land adjacent to the Rastrum site in the formation of the Dungeness, Romney Marsh and Rye Bay SSSI, there is considered to be the opportunity for some expansion of port activity, in particular the potential for additional wharf and industrial activity.
8.15 Fundamental in developing the strategy for Rye is to ensure that the correct level of growth is planned for, given the sensitive nature of Rye's important environmental assets, the social and economic issues and its untapped potential described above.
8.16 More information on the local context and consideration of strategic options used to inform the strategy direction for Rye are in the Urban Options Background Paper.
8.17 Some growth in housing and employment are required to improve social and economic conditions and this must be achieved whilst minimising adverse effects on, and where practicable enhancing, the high quality natural, built and historic environment. The need to plan carefully with regard to flood risk, taking into account predictions for climate change will also be imperative.
8.18 Two strategy options have been considered, one with a focus on enhancing the service centre and commercial role and the other with a focus on strengthening social/environmental attributes. Growth that may be attached to the strategy options would constitute a medium level growth for the first option and low/limited level of growth for the option that focuses on social and environmental issues.
8.19 In line with the overall strategy, and in view of Rye's sensitive landscape setting, historic core, accessibility limitations, proximity to nationally and internationally important wildlife habitats and flooding issues, it is not anticipated that the Core Strategy should propose that Rye have a high level of growth. This conclusion was very much supported by the responses to the Issues and Options Consultation.
8.20 A short summary of the appraisal of the options against the Sustainability and Plan Objectives is given below. The Urban Options Background Paper contains more information on the development of the options within the context of governing policies and programmes, the strengths and weaknesses of the area, previous consultation on Issues and Options, Sustainability Appraisal and other comparative assessments.
8.21 The service centre/commercial option presents a good opportunity for Rye to enhance its service centre role and sustain economic growth through recognised regeneration opportunities and the identification of additional land for employment and residential uses. It should deliver more affordable accommodation and a greater choice of accommodation. However, due to Rye's significant national historic importance, rich archaeology, ecology and location on the edge of the AONB, this level of growth could lead to adverse impacts on Rye's environmental assets.
8.22 The option focussing on strengthening social and environmental functions has less scope to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live in an affordable home and this is particularly important in light of the Housing Needs Assessment identifying a significant need for affordable housing in Rye.
8.23 The levels of growth associated with this option would not necessarily present the same opportunities for delivering improved economic growth as the service centre option, but should help to sustain the economy through a more innovative approach to green tourism and making the most of its waterside location. The option is generally more positive for environmental matters, but presents marginally less opportunity for enhancing and addressing social issues particularly in respect of what can be achieved from developer contributions.
8.24 This assessment of the options against sustainability and plan objectives has found that an amalgam of the options would best address the particular circumstances of the area. This amalgamation would seek to limit the overall levels of growth but concentrate the growth to deliver the required local economic and social benefits and rely on effective cross-cutting policies particularly in relation to affordable housing to ensure local needs will be met.
8.25 The level of housing growth for Rye, based on the assessment of the District-wide distribution options in Section 5, suggests approximately 500 dwellings to Rye over the Plan period. However, detailed analysis of the local and policy context, key issues and strategic alternative options for Rye has shown that a somewhat lower level of growth is appropriate over the Plan period.
8.26 In terms of future housing, a total of 450 dwellings over the Plan period are proposed. This will be substantially met by outstanding commitments and completions since 2006, as well as some unimplemented allocations proposals in the area. These allocations will be important to the strategy for Rye and Rye Harbour as they are brownfield sites which offer regeneration opportunities that could deliver a mix of residential and employment development.
8.27 Further opportunities for infill and redevelopment will be maximised and there will be a strong urban focus. No significant additional greenfield allocations are envisaged. The areas of search for any small-scale peripheral growth that may be necessary are severely restricted by flood risk and internationally designated conservation sites.
8.28 Application of these major constraints limits broad areas of search to land to the north and west of Rye. These have been considered against the general principles of sustainable development.
North of Rye:
8.29 This relates to land contiguous with Rye up to and north of the development boundary, to the east and west of the A268. To the west, this land lies in the parish of Rye Foreign and to the east of the A268 it falls within Playden Parish.
8.30 Key considerations include accessibility and linkage to jobs, shops and services by non-car modes and this area of search lies approximately 1-2km from the train station, central bus services and other town centre services. The area lies outside the AONB though parts of the area are adjacent. The area is in flood zone 1 which is the lowest flood risk category of land. The majority of opportunities within this search area would involve greenfield land.
West of Rye:
8.31 This includes land extending westward from the Local Plan allocation RY5 at Udimore Road. This is a smaller area of search than to the north of Rye and looks to utilise the area of land adjacent to RY5 that also falls outside the AONB.
8.32 Key considerations include accessibility and linkage to jobs, shops and services by non-car modes. This area of search lies approximately 1.5km from the train station, central bus services and other town centre services. It lies outside, but adjacent to, the AONB. The area is in flood zone 1 which is the lowest flood risk category of land. The opportunities within this search area would generally involve greenfield land.
8.33 In conclusion, more detailed work is needed in order to determine any new land allocations, especially in relation to landscape, infrastructure and traffic impacts, it is therefore not appropriate at this stage to put forward a preferred location. It is worth bearing in mind that relatively little, if any, additional land may be needed to accommodate new development.
8.34 The overall strategy for the Rye and Rye Harbour area is set out below:
8.35 The implementation of this strategy will be supported by appropriate physical, social and 'green' infrastructure. The Council working with its partners, identified in the table below, will ensure the timely provision of necessary infrastructure.
8.36 Full requirements for infrastructure will be better understood as site-based work is completed. The following list is by no means exhaustive, but identifies the infrastructure requirements that are currently known:
- Utilities connections for gas, electricity, water and wastewater for existing and new allocations
- New pedestrian and cycle routes including Sustrans preferred new route and access along river frontage at Rock Channel and the Ferry Road link north of the railway line
- Road and junction improvements in accordance with Rye LATS such as Military Road/A268 junction improvements and Rye Harbour Road/A259 junction
- Flood defences for the eastern bank of the River Rother
- Town centre public realm improvements
- Improvements to existing play areas and new play area to the south
Implementation8.37 This strategy will be implemented through:
- Rock Channel Development Brief SPD
- Site Allocations DPD
- Subsequent guidance in further Local Development Documents
- The determination and monitoring of planning applications and appeals
- Direct partnerships working with landowners, developers, statutory agencies, Registered Social Landlords, transport operators and the local community
- The use of planning obligations
- The implementation of the Rye Local Area Transport Strategy
8.38 The following table identifies the main lead agencies with whom the Council would be working in partnership.
|Strategy Area||Lead Agencies / Partners|
|The Economy||RDC; Rye Partnership; Seaspace; Rye Town Council; Utilities Companies; EA (input on flood risk); landowners; Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Management Team and Kent Wildlife Trust in relation to sustainable tourism and supporting the farming economy|
|Services and Community Development||ESCC; RDC, Rye Town Council|
|The Environment||RDC; EA; NE; Rye Harbour Nature Reserve Management Team; LNR landowners; Kent Wildlife Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust|
|Accessibility||ESCC; RDC; transport operators|
|Town Centre||RDC; ESCC, Rye Town Council|
|Development and Housing||RDC; Utilities Companies; EA (input on flood risk), landowners, developers, Registered Social Landlords|
9. Rural Areas
Scope and Issues
9.1 Rother is a substantially rural district, with villages and their countryside setting integral to its character. The term 'rural area' refers here to all parts of the District outside of the towns of Bexhill, Battle and Rye. The area contains more than 40% of the District's population and comprises both villages and intervening countryside, which each have distinct, yet inter-related issues.
9.2 For clarity, the term 'village' in this context is defined as a contiguous or coherent area of housing and services, not broken up by intervening countryside. Parishes may contain any number of villages as well as large areas of countryside.
9.3 Over time, the vitality of villages has tended to be undermined by a shortage of affordable housing, high levels of out-commuting and limited access to jobs and services, a decline in community services (particularly local shops) and limited public transport. These are all issues for the Core Strategy to address.
9.4 The Rural Settlements Study Background Paper provides the context, setting out the differing settlement patterns and the social and economic contexts of individual settlements. This has emphasised local priorities and led to a distinctive agenda for the "place shaping" of each village.
9.5 The term 'countryside' is used for those areas outside of villages and includes not only farmland and woodland but also scattered development outside the main confines of villages.
9.6 Rother's countryside has high amenity value, much of it being designated within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is valued for its heritage, culture and as a leisure resource by both residents and visitors alike.
9.7 Agriculture has historically formed the core of the rural economy, but this has been challenged over the course of the last three decades by changing practices and economies. This has forced changes in the way that land is farmed and a greater focus on countryside stewardship.
Aim and Objectives
9.8 The aim and objectives presented below are regarded as an appropriate framework to guide the strategy for the rural areas. They emphasise the significant role of both villages and countryside to the character and culture of Rother. They have been subject to Sustainability Appraisal to ensure they are in accordance with sustainability principles.
9.9 The aims and objectives for the rural areas overlap with to a large extent with the aims and objectives of thematic sections within this Core Strategy. Particular cross reference needs to be made to the Environment section (in terms of landscape stewardship and habitat protection and enhancement), the Economy section (in terms of tourism and the rural economy), the Communities section (in terms of affordable housing, exception sites and health, recreation & communities issues) and the Transport and Accessibility section (in terms of rural transport schemes).
9.10 For ease of presentation, separate strategies for the villages and for the countryside are set out below. These should be read together to provide a clear strategy framework for the rural areas.
Strategy Directions - Villages
9.11 The "place-shaping" of villages is the responsibility of the Council and all local partners in the public, voluntary and the business sectors. It is about creating attractive, prosperous and vibrant villages where people want to live, work and do business.
9.12 Supporting and enhancing the vitality and viability of local village communities entails the creation and maintenance of sustainable rural settlements by identifying and responding to community needs.
9.13 Affordable housing is a particularly pressing community need in rural areas, but there are also demonstrable needs for other local community facilities, as well as jobs and business provision.
9.14 The strategy has been developed in response to the national and regional policy context, the Core Strategy Issues and Options consultation responses and liaison with key stakeholders such as the Parish Councils, the High Weald AONB Forum and utilities bodies.
9.15 The outcome of the assessment of options for the district-wide distribution of housing in Section 4 provides the starting point for rural housing. In effect, it suggests that the villages will need to accommodate of the order of 1,200 dwellings (or 60 dwellings per annum) over the plan period, necessitating the identification of some new allocations in the area. This was based on the preferred 'service-centre' based spatial distribution option for the District as a whole.
9.16 In addition to the District-wide spatial distribution options, a number of spatial distribution options have been identified for the villages. The five options are elaborated upon in more detail within the Rural Settlements Study Background Paper, but in summary they are:
- Continue to focus on village service centres (i.e those villages which provide the broadest range of local services such as shops, community and recreation facilities)
- Development to support community needs and deficiencies, particularly where there is a demonstrable need for affordable housing
- Focus development on a few larger villages
- Dispersed development based on population (i.e. each village grows proportionally equally)
- Focus development on transport corridors (i.e. where villages are most accessible by car, bus and train)
9.17 The option for a new or substantially expanded village is not promoted, as this would be contrary to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty settlement pattern, while the combination of economic, social and accessibility factors make this inappropriate in the few non-AONB locations.
9.18 The preferred option for villages is a composite of the options and has been informed by the sustainability appraisal (SA) process. It is to primarily focus on the service centres (option a). However, it will also take into account other options such as local needs (option b), dispersed development (option d) and accessibility (option e), as well as environmental constraints.
9.19 The preferred option has been chosen since it is mindful of existing settlement patterns, of where population growth may best be served by a full range of services, and where key services may benefit economically from an increased local market. It will allow effective use to be made of existing community facilities which support social networks, including shops, schools, village halls and recreation areas. It is felt that these factors best support the overall aims and objectives for the rural area.
9.20 More detail on the criteria used to determine service centre role can be found in the Rural Settlements Study1, but in summary the service centres are as follows:
|Rural Service Centres||Robertsbridge|
|Local Service Villages||Burwash|
9.21 Other factors that have influenced the preferred option for villages include the pressing need for affordable housing which has been demonstrated particularly by the Housing Needs Survey. Similarly, it is vital to ensure development is as accessible as possible, particularly to public transport. Therefore, a number of villages that have not been defined as service villages have nonetheless been listed as potentially suitable for development as a result of further consideration of local needs, potentials, patterns of development and accessibility. More detail on these can also be found in the Rural Settlements Study background paper.
9.22 Whilst this is the starting point or context, the approach has involved a further, critical stage of looking at the social, economic and environmental needs, potentials and constraints of each individual village of a certain size.
9.23 Examination of local environmental/landscape constraints has also informed recommendations for village housing growth. These are contained within the Village Appraisals section of the Rural Settlements Study. As a result of these appraisals, environmental constraints have moderated the level of growth at some villages that might otherwise have been considered appropriate for expansion. For example, whilst Burwash is a local service village, the extent of environmental and heritage constraints are such that there are limited opportunities for development.
9.24 In order to meet the demand for new development it is likely that greenfield sites abutting villages will need to be considered within the plan period. Development will need to be sensitive to the need to protect and enhance the distinctive landscape character of the District, particularly the AONB, and should reflect the prevailing landscape quality and character.
9.25 'Development boundaries' are established around all service centre villages, but also around a number of other villages based upon their infrastructure, accessibility, service role and environmental context. Development boundaries differentiate between areas where development, including redevelopment or intensification, would be acceptable in principle and where it would not. The 'Overall Spatial Strategy' (section 5) provides more details on their use.
9.26 However, not all villages with development boundaries have been identified for housing allocations in the Strategy Direction for Villages below. This is because it is not considered that all of them offer opportunities of sufficient scale to warrant an actual allocation through the LDF (Allocations will consist of at least 6 dwellings).
9.27 Smaller settlements, hamlets and other enclaves of development in the countryside (without development boundaries) will generally be covered by policies relating to the wider countryside and not asked to accommodate new development. However there will still be provision for planning decisions regarding affordable housing and community facilities in these settlements to be supportive of and responsive to the characteristics of the local population, demonstrable local needs, public survey results and recognised standards of provision.
9.28 The conclusions regarding the scale of housing at individual villages are indicated in the preferred strategy below. The overall total approximates to the level of development discussed in the preferred option of the overall spatial development strategy (see earlier section 5). However, the final figure of 1,250 to 1,300 dwellings over a 20 year period is slightly higher due to the incorporation of other factors into the village preferred option, particularly local needs and more dispersed development (as discussed in paragraph 9.15 above).
9.29 Much of these 1,250 to 1,300 dwellings have already been accounted for via completions over the period 2006-2008 (a period of housing boom) and unimplemented planning permissions. The residual requirement is for additional allocations for some 400 dwellings 2008-2026. It is also worth noting that over the previous twenty year period, growth was significantly higher in rural areas and that just under 2,300 dwellings were constructed in the 20 year period 1987-2007.
9.30 Final numbers and allocations will ultimately be determined and progressed in the forthcoming Site Allocations DPD, informed both by feedback from Core Strategy consultations and from the ongoing Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA).
9.31 Regular monitoring of 'windfall' completions will be necessary to help inform appropriate levels of land release, in accordance with the principles of 'Plan, Monitor, Manage'. Windfall completions will generally occur in villages where a development boundary has been established by planning policy.
9.32 Government planning policy (PPS3) generally prevents local authorities from making an allowance for windfalls in demonstrating housing supply. However, Rother has a good track record of windfall housing developments, so if this trend continues, it may not be necessary to bring forward later phased allocations during the plan period.
9.33 In terms of phasing, it is generally assumed that existing housing allocations and outstanding permissions will be developed in the earlier phases of the Plan. In villages which have further proposed housing (in addition to existing allocations or large outstanding permissions), these will be phased in the latter part of the plan period to ensure a balanced phasing of development.
9.34 It is intended that new developments along the A21 are phased in the later in the plan period to allow for the resolution of uncertainty regarding the proposed A21 bypass routes. All other proposals will be phased equally across the whole plan period to allow a gradual assimilation of development with the existing villages. It is considered that this will be beneficial to the social cohesion of existing villages.
9.35 The location of villages with some growth potential is shown on Map 1 - District Key Diagram.
9.36 Supporting local employment opportunities is a key objective for the rural areas. Evidence in the form of an Employment Strategy and Land Review (ELR) suggests the need for new employment floorspace within Rother's rural areas. Of the 100,000sqm sought across the District, it can be estimated that perhaps 10% (i.e. 10,000sqm) may be required in rural localities, preferably within or at least well related to existing village development boundaries.
9.37 The ELR elaborates further that it is the development of small workshops and office units needs to be encouraged to support the rural economy. This is most likely to be achievable via sensitive expansion of existing sites or as part of new mixed use developments. In addition, the Rural Settlements Study contains further evidence on the relative need for employment within individual villages based upon a number of factors including unemployment, economic activity rate and ratio of in:out commuting. Villages that appear to have a particular need for employment include the following:
- Broad Oak
- Hurst Green
- Icklesham Parish including Winchelsea and Winchelsea Beach
- Ticehurst / Flimwell area
9.38 Development of employment generating uses will be encouraged alongside housing development on mixed use sites where feasible. Encouragement and support of home-working will also help support viable rural economies. Existing employment sites will also need to be retained and used effectively.
9.39 Tourism is an important component of the local economy and local services benefit from the additional trade. Several Rother villages are popular tourist destinations, including the historic settlements of Bodiam, Burwash, Winchelsea and most notably the coastal resort of Camber. There is a need to accommodate and manage tourist facilities and supporting services sensitively in appropriate locations.
9.40 The subsequent Employment section outlines a number of
general policy directions that are of relevance to all
areas of the district and rural areas in particular, such
as the need to retain existing employment sites wherever
Services and Community Development
9.41 Within villages, a decline in community services (particularly local shops) over the last few decades has resulted in ever more limited access for rural residents. The problems are exacerbated by limited public transport resulting in the unsustainable trend of residents driving further afield to services. Analysis of responses to the questionnaire carried out by the Council at Core Strategy Issues and Options stage indicate a particular concern amongst rural residents over a lack of shops for day to day purchases, post offices and chemists.
9.42 The Rother District Wide Shopping Assessment (2008) confirms that residents generally travel to larger towns for their main weekly shopping. However, they will typically use smaller village stores for secondary 'top-up' shopping. For example, this may entail popping to the local shop for milk and a newspaper.
9.43 Open Space needs have been set out in the Open Space, Sport & Recreation Study (2007) which suggests that in rural areas there is a shortage of children's play areas and amenity green space. In the west of the district's rural areas there is a more localised deficit of outdoor sports facilities and allotments, and in the eastern rural parishes a slight shortage of parks and gardens.
9.44 The study has also produced more localised recommendations for new and improved facilities. These recommendations have been summarised in the Rural Settlements Study as they apply on a village by village basis. Where appropriate they may be taken forward in the Site Allocations DPD.
9.45 Village and community halls have a pivotal role to play in village community life. Responses at Issues and Options stage show that 79% of rural respondents rate their local hall as "very good" or "good", the most positive response of any rural facility or service. Nonetheless, planning policies need to continue to ensure their protection and the provision of new, extended or refurbished community/educational facilities in appropriate locations to meet present and expected needs.
9.46 Rural residents feel strongly that in planning new development, 'ensuring that design is in keeping with the surrounding area' is very important. Indeed, this factor demonstrated more strength of feeling than any other in the responses of rural residents at Core Strategy Issues and Options. This will be particularly important in Conservation Areas, but also within villages generally. The later section on 'Design Quality and Built Environment' contains more detailed strategies.
9.47 Based on the responses to Core Strategy Issues and Options consultation, access to regular bus/train services is a concern of rural residents. Whilst the majority consider these to be important factors in making a village a good place to live, only a small minority rate their current level of access to public transport services as a good quality. The strategy below aims to help address this, working closely with the County Council, bus service providers and the Voluntary Sector.
9.48 The proposed strategy for villages which addresses the relevant objectives as well as the above issues is set out overleaf.
|Village||Current Unimplemented Allocations||Proposed Additional Dwellings||Total|
*In accordance with the target for 65 exception sites as set out in the Housing Strategy for Rother 2007-2012
Strategy Directions - Countryside
9.49 Both the countryside and the undeveloped coast have high intrinsic amenity value. They are also a resource for leisure and tourism, with an emphasis on quiet informal recreation, and for nature conservation.
9.50 Beyond the villages, the historic hamlets and farmsteads of the High Weald contribute towards a distinct and picturesque landscape, with the rolling pastureland and small ancient woodlands of the countryside interspersed with medieval houses, barns, and oasts. Where the High Weald gives way to the lower lying coastal areas, the landscapes are generally more recent and shaped by tourism.
9.51 Approximately 10% of the population of Rother live in the countryside outside of the villages and towns, with some 1.2% of the Rother's population being employed in agriculture, forestry and fishing. There is a significant amount of out-commuting from the countryside to more urban locations of employment.
9.52 There are many diverse pressures and competing demands on the resources of the countryside and undeveloped coast, which creates tension between preservation and enhancement and development and change.
9.53 Two options for the countryside have been considered in the Sustainability Appraisal, namely:
- Continue to limit development in the countryside, with the aim of balancing the tension between the protection of the countryside from development and having regard to the pressures and potentials for development.
- Supporting more extensive development in the countryside to maximise economic, tourist and recreational potential.
9.54 More detailed consideration of options is contained within the Sustainability Appraisal. However, in summary, it is considered that option 2 would result in a negative impact on the countryside's intrinsic character with a loss of greenfield sites and the intensification of traffic and urban activity.
9.55 Woodland and farming continue to be the predominant uses in the countryside, although with the exception of the river valleys and areas to the east, the agricultural land of the district is generally low-medium quality. In future, predicted food price increases may serve to re-emphasise the importance of agricultural production.
9.56 The strategy needs to acknowledge the prospect of demand for new agricultural buildings able to meet the needs of modern farming. These will be supported in principle. Whilst the size and mass of such buildings is inevitably dictated by their function, care is still needed in design and materials, to minimise the visual impact on the landscape character of the countryside. This can normally be best achieved by siting them as part of the existing farmstead group.
9.57 The shift towards environmental land management over the previous 20 - 30 years has both helped support farming but also the conservation of landscape features and ecology. This remains important, especially in the High Weald.
9.58 Changing farming needs, and development economics, has meant that many former farm buildings have become available for conversion and re-use for residential, employment and tourism uses. This has provided an important source of accommodation for many small businesses, in areas where supply is at a premium.
9.59 Therefore, and to support the rural economy, the current policy presumption for such conversions prioritises uses which contribute to the local rural economy in the first instance, such as workshops, farm shops or tourist facilities. To further emphasise the priority to local needs, it is now proposed that, if employment uses are not appropriate or viable, then affordable housing should be considered ahead of open market residential conversions.
9.60 The general principle in terms of new residential development, as for other forms of development in the countryside, is that it should be limited to that which cannot or should not be located in an urban area and which positively contributes to maintaining the landscape heritage of the area. New housing will be allowed in limited circumstances as set out in the preferred strategy.
9.61 Changes to dwellings, be it extensions to dwellings or curtilages, alterations to previously converted traditional former agricultural dwellings, or buildings in curtilages can, cumulatively, have a significant impact on the character of the countryside. It is therefore important to ensure that such proposals do not suburbanise the countryside, compromise the character, integrity or form of distinctive building typologies, nor compromise their contribution to the landscape character.
9.62 In this context, it is important that the heritage of the area, in terms of the distinctive character of the former traditional agricultural building - their internal character and features, external appearance, and landscape setting - should be retained, and domesticating the building or its setting by means of inappropriate alterations, access arrangements or boundary treatments avoided.
9.63 Other development pressures in the countryside include holiday caravan and chalet developments, equestrian and tourism activities. Existing Local Plan policies support sensitive touring caravan and camping, tourism and equestrian developments. For static caravans, the emphasis is on improving the amenities of existing sites to maintain and enhance their tourism value. Consideration will be given to upgrading the form of holiday accommodation to respond to modern expectations, market and environmental factors. However, their permanent residential use is resisted.
9.64 In all cases, it should be demonstrated that developments are of appropriate scale and will not adversely impact on the landscape character and natural resources of the countryside, as well as on the amenities of the locality or any adjoining dwellings.
9.65 Features which contribute positively to the landscape character of the district, and in particular to the High Weald AONB, such as field patterns, native-species hedgerows, ancient green lanes, trees, watercourses and ponds, will be expected to be retained and their character preserved. The importance of Rother District's countryside in terms of its high quality landscape character and high ecological value, has been described in more detail in the section on 'Environment'.
9.66 Increased traditional woodland management will assist local timber industries improving local employment opportunities and support woodland for its ecological, landscape and historical value.
9.67 In accordance with the objective 'To promote environmentally sensitive land management and to respect and conserve the historic landscape mosaic, particularly in the High Weald AONB', the Council is investigating the possibility of including 'land-based workers' within a local definition of key workers, thus assisting them to access affordable housing.
9.68 This initiative is in response to ongoing consultations with the High Weald AONB Forum who have raised concerns that there is an insufficient local skills base to maintain and enhance the AONB. Subject to more detailed evidence, this will be reflected within the final Core Strategy.
9.69 The potential for renewable energy from biomass, (which is anything derived from plant or animal matter and includes agricultural, forestry wastes/residues and energy crops) may be increasingly realised over the plan period. In particular, the AONB woodlands are an under-utilised source of renewable energy. This will be further investigated in refining the Core Strategy.
9.70 A number of farmers markets and farm shops operate in Rother where people can purchase food that has been locally grown. These two ways of sourcing locally grown food reduce 'food miles' and support the local economy and will continue to be encouraged and supported.
9.71 The strategy for the countryside will be mindful of other schemes that have been instigated by other agencies involved in the custodianship of the countryside, such as DEFRA schemes, the High Weald AONB Management Plan, the East Sussex Landscape Character Assessment, East Sussex County Council Biomass Fuel Strategy and the East Sussex Rights of Way Improvement Plan.
9.72 The implementation of this strategy will be supported by appropriate physical, social and green infrastructure. The Council working with its partners, identified in the table below, will ensure the timely provision of necessary infrastructure. The following list is by no means exhaustive but identifies the infrastructure requirements that are currently known. Other requirements for infrastructure will be better understood as site-based work is completed.
- Utilities connections for gas, electricity, water and wastewater for existing and new allocations
- Strategic road and junction improvements on the A27 and A21 in accordance with the Highways Agency's Regional transport Programme
- Other Road and junction improvements in accordance with the LTP
- Schools and Education Schemes in line with ESCC programmes
- Flood defences at Robertsbridge (and possibly Crowhurst and Etchingham) in accordance with the Environment Agency's Catchment Flood Management Plan and at Camber, Jury's Gap, Winchelsea Beach, Pett Level and Fairlight Cove (in accordance with the Coastal Strategy)
- Community projects to improve social infrastructure in line with Village Action Plans
- Improvements to existing, and new open spaces and play areas as needed in accordance with RDC's Open Space Space Audit and Assessment, Parish Action Plans and pending more detailed investigation in Site Allocations DPD
- Replacement and/or relocation of health facilities in accordance with the Primary Care Development Plan (PCDP)
- Public transport improvements (see Transport and Accessibility) Implementation
- Site Allocations DPD
- Subsequent guidance in further Local Development Documents
- Direct partnerships working with Parish Councils, High Weald AONB Forum, Action in Rural Sussex (AiRS), Sussex Enterprise, Learning and Skills Council, 1066 Enterprise, Wealden and Rother Rural (WARR) Partnership, English Heritage, landowners, developers, statutory agencies, Registered Social Landlords, transport operators and the local community
- The determination and monitoring of planning applications and appeals
- The use of planning obligations, planning agreements and developer's contributions
- Conservation Area improvements in line with Conservation Area Character Assessments
- Village centre public realm improvements in accordance with Village Design Statements
- The implementation of the Highways Agency's Regional transport Programme
- The implementation of the East Sussex Local Transport Plan
9.74 Implementation of the strategy and policies requires concerted action by many organisations. The following table indicates which would be the lead agency in relation to each area of action:
|Strategy Area||Lead Agencies / Partners|
|Villages||a) For the Economy||LPA, Parish Councils, Sussex Enterprise, Learning and Skills Council, 1066 Enterprise, High Weald AONB Forum, Action in Rural Sussex (AiRS), Wealden and Rother Rural (WARR) Partnership|
|b) For Services and Community Development||LPA, Parish Councils, ESCC, LSP|
|c) For the Historic environment||LPA, English Heritage, High Weald AONB Forum|
|d) For Accessibility||LPA, ESCC, Network Rail, Bus Companies, Highways Agency, Community Rail Partnership|
|e) For Housing to address local needs||LPA, Parish Councils, Action in Rural Sussex, LSP|
|Countryside||a) For Countryside Character and Amenity||LPA, ESCC, High Weald AONB Forum, Natural England, Wildlife Trusts. Parish Councils.|
|b) For the Countryside Economy||LPA, ESCC, English Heritage, High Weald AONB Unit, DEFRA, 1066 Country Group, Parish Councils, attractions.|
|c) For Development in the Countryside||ESCC, LPA.|
1The Rural Settlements Study (RSS) Background Paper investigated and appraised over 40 villages across the District, including all of those with Local Plan defined development boundaries as well as a number of others. The RSS included all settlements with a population of at least 100, as well as several with smaller populations where they benefitted from the presence of a key service. The RSS has helped inform the Core Strategy and define villages in terms of their role, appropriateness of development boundary and need/suitability for development.