The prospect of 24 eco-holiday lodges at Bewl Water led to 184 objections submitted as part of the planning application process, including objections from both CPRE Sussex and CPRE Kent. Despite scaling down the plans to 11 eco-holiday loges, Wealden District Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected the plan when they met on 14 November.
The concerns raised against this development are available to read below, in CPRE Sussex’s response to the application. The Courier newspaper reported the decision to refuse the application:
CPRE Sussex’s letter to Wealden District Council dated 17 October 2012
Re: Planning Application WD/2012/1773 (TW 12/02675/ADJ)
BEWL WATER, BEWLBRIDGE LANE, LAMBERHURST
INTRODUCTION OF 24 ECO-HOLIDAY LODGES TO SUPPORT EXISTING LEISURE USE OF THE SITE WITH ASSOCIATED WORKS TO INCLUDE ANCILLARY 'DROP OFF' PARKING, GRASSED SUMMER OVERFLOW, SITE WIDE LANDSCAPING AND MITIGATION MEASURES
We value the English countryside for its beauty, diversity and tranquility. Tranquility is increasingly recognised as important for everyone for hearts, minds and bodies. Tranquil places are those without the impacts of continuous occupation and development. We have continually campaigned to protect our most special and precious landscapes. The High Weald AONB is just such a special landscape.
The proposed development of holiday cottages would significantly erode the tranquility of Bewl Water. The cottages would significantly change the character from transient daytime recreation use for sailing, walking, horseriding etc, to round the clock occupation with entirely new impacts of night-time lighting and impacts of occupation: sewerage, waste water, night time vehicle movements etc. We appreciate the proposers have attempted to reduce the environmental impacts of the development by proposing eco design, solar panels, and low level lighting. These simply demonstrate the need to mitigate the significant impacts that the buildings and their occupation would have on the character of the area.
We note that the proposal is not in conformance with the High Weald AONB 2004 management policies adopted by the Council which do not encourage this form of large scale tourist activity of a permanent nature. Objective UE4 supports informal recreation to support ‘green’ use.
The National Planning Policy Framework sets a requirement to achieve Sustainable Development, and states in paragraphs 115 and 116:
115.Great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which have the highest status of protection in relation to landscape and scenic beauty.
116. Planning permission should be refused for major developments in these designated areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest. Consideration of such applications should include an assessment of:
- the need for the development, including in terms of any national considerations, and the impact of permitting it, or refusing it, upon the local economy;
- the cost of, and scope for, developing elsewhere outside the designated area, or meeting the need for it in some other way; and
- any detrimental effect on the environment, the landscape and recreational opportunities, and the extent to which that could be moderated.
There is no evidence presented that these are exceptional circumstances combined with public interest. This is a rural site away from a village and village services. It is therefore doubly unsuitable for development.
If approved the development would also interfere with other appropriate existing activities in this part of the AONB. The development would build over the horsebox park, reducing existing access as well as restricting the use of the round- reservoir path by horse riders. This would a loss of an existing important local recreational resource.
We also question the highways conclusion that there would be no adverse impacts. They cite the fact that there are occasional events at Bewl as evidence of adequacy. We would point out that occasional activity with steward supervision is entirely different from increasing traffic continuously with the additional hazard of night-time driving in narrow rural lanes.
We therefore urge the Council to refuse the application.
Georgia Wrighton Director, CPRE Sussex Countryside Trust
Photo courtesy Mike Rumboll