Planning expert asks, “Why no Housing Infrastructure Fund money for Wealden?”

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Hailsham-based architectural designer and planning consultant, Glenn Moore, is shocked after the announcement last week that Wealden District Council would be not receiving additional funds from the Government’s new Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF)

When the Government launched its new housing policy in 2016, it recognised the importance of installing infrastructure at an early stage. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, went so far as to state in ‘An Introduction to the Housing Infrastructure Fund’ (HIF) that this, “could make all the difference in making new land available and getting homes built”.

The £2.3bn HIF was launched to “ensure the right infrastructure is in place at the right time to unlock the high quality new homes that this country needs”. The Government challenged local authorities to “show real ambition for the future” in their proposals.

Wealden District Council and East Sussex County Council entered their bid for £32m last September. It was part of a plan, running up to 2028, to unlock and accelerate the building of 4,500 much-needed homes – principally in the Hailsham area. The infrastructure plans included a new primary school for Hailsham, mitigation of nitrogen deposition in the Ashdown Forest, and road improvements.

Despite this, Wealden was awarded nothing in the first round. In total 133 local authorities received pay-outs from the first £866m of the £2.3bn. Locally, these included Adur £10m, Brighton & Hove £15.2m, Eastbourne £1.2m, Hastings £2.2m, Lewes £10m, Mid-Sussex £6.5m, and Rother £3.4m. So, what went wrong for Wealden?

It is possible they will receive their funding in the next round but since Wealden District Council has previously stated that land for development would only be released when plans for the necessary infrastructure were in place, Moore says he is worried this will mean much-needed housing plans will now be delayed or scrapped.

“Wealden is in desperate need of new houses. Without them, we will continue to see locals being priced out of the market. GM Moore & Associates has been providing architectural and planning services in this region for over 30 years and I can honestly say I have never seen such a need for new housing. The right housing, of the right design, in the right places, will help revitalise our communities and provide a much-needed boost to the local economy,” Moore said.

He added: “This is a missed opportunity to call a halt to the developer led ad hoc developments we have witnessed over the last decade or so, as Wealden have not contested applications based on the premise that they would be unable to defend a negative response at a planning appeal due to the lack of a five-year housing supply.

“That being the case, they could have at least negotiated access roads that met Government standards, improved design in lieu of pastiche architecture, insisted on connectivity (footways and bicycle paths) between developments and the town centre, and vastly improved public transport and parking. They could also insist on more green space, which is vital as Hailsham is currently over twenty acres short of Government targets.”

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