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April 2015: Lewes District Report

This has been a challenging year in Lewes.

The District's claim to a 5-year housing supply was lost at an appeal early in 2014. This led to a number of applications for development of rural greenfield sites in the Low Weald villages being rushed forward. These were taking advantage of the consequent presumption in favour of sustainable development and offering only the low, historic, level of affordable housing required by the old 2003 Local Plan rather than the 40% shown to be viable for such sites and included in the new Local Plan.

Several of these applications have been successful, either directly or on appeal.  

We congratulate Newick parish council on successfully piloting through their Neighbourhood Plan, which was supported by almost 90% of residents at referendum.

The Ringmer Neighbourhood Plan has also completed examination, and is expected to go to referendum in June.

The Lewes District Core Strategy (or Local Plan part 1) completed its examination in public in January 2015. CPRE were represented at most of the hearings.

In his preliminary findings Inspector Nigel Payne considered the Local Plan sound and legally compliant, subject to a number of modifications. The most important of these was that he recommended increasing the proposed housing target from 5,780 to 6,900 new dwellings.

This number was considerably below the objectively assessed housing need for the District, but the inspector recognised that could not be met for environmental reasons. The inspector also offered detailed guidance on how he considered that the new target could be achieved. This included technical changes such as increasing the allowance for windfalls and including an allowance for rural exception developments, justified by past building rates, but also the inclusion of four additional strategic housing sites.

One of these was a site on the edge of Lewes that had been opposed by the National Park, but the other three involved bringing forward as strategic sites three areas of land on the edges of Newhaven, Peacehaven and Ringmer where development was already anticipated later in the Plan period.

Several additional greenfield sites in and around the District's Low Weald villages were vigorously promoted by developers but did not find favour.  

The Local Plan will be modified in accordance with the inspector's recommendations and subject to further public consultation in the summer. Adoption is currently scheduled for the end of 2015.

However, Lewes District planning policy officers expect that, with effect from 1 April, they will once again be able to claim a 5-year housing land supply.

Lewes District has also published its CIL proposals for the parts of the District outside the National Park. These will be subject to examination in public, by the same inspector, in April 2015.

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