East Field Fairlight Action Group  (EFFAG)     Dec 2014

Hello from EFFAG, Hopefully by now you know what these initials mean – they are nothing to do with Electronic Cigarettes or an Effigy! ...but that may change if East Field, which is still under threat, is not kept as it is! The photo's of harvesting and the field's differing vistas are retained from the Jan issue. We have indicated with # where existing text has changed, been corrected or added to.

The following sections tell the story:-

Introduction to EFFAG - this details our aims and why we are keen to keep East Field as it is, a long established crop producing field safeguarding the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that it forms part of.

The following 3 sections explain amongst other aspects the SHLAA forms, the number of new homes for Rother & their draft & Govt. Programmes with important happenings, the Neighbourhood Plan, the position with the Market Garden Site & more photos of East Field:

Background
Current Position
Summary

Our film shows East Field's harvesting and photo's of the glorious & differing seasons clearly indicating why it should be saved:

EFFAG's short Video Film of 'East Field'

 

 

Introduction to EFFAG: East Field Fairlight Action Group

Hello from EFFAG.  We are a village Action Group of residents who believe that  Fairlight's  East Field, shown on the map on the accompanying opening sheet, should remain as agricultural land and continue to be part of the dedicated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that surrounds our Village.

 

We are obviously aware that people need to live in nice homes and with changing lifestyles and population growth, many more are needed throughout England.  However in search of a quick fix by building on fine countryside instead of utilising the huge areas of derelict land and upgrading empty or run down property, is not, we feel, an environmental or sustainable way forward.

 

Although by some it might be said we are each a “NIMBY - Not in my back yard!”- it is encouraging that when this current proposal was first taken up by our Parish Council it was, for the first time in years at their monthly meeting, overfull with residents. Many were from those who do not back onto nor directly or indirectly overlook East Field but made it clear they were against its development.

 

Fairlight's Parish Councillors subsequently voted to reject the Planning Authority (Rother District Council) proposal to possibly include East Field in its revised Local Plan Core Strategy for house building up to 2028.  However Rother are still proposing to include it but we and the Parish Council and, we believe, the village in general, consider that East Field is totally unsuitable for development. We are happy that the Fairlight Residents Association concur with our views.

 

Hopefully you also concur with our views here and as further spelt out in Fairlight Parish Council's rebuttal (see copy in their part of this Web site).

 

Our EFFAG group (pronounced 'effigy' – of whom, we don't know yet!) is run by a small group of residents and we will of course take up points and comments both for and against development. Perhaps use this Web's Forum.

Our aim is to update this Web section as and when important aspects occur.

 

 Background   Jan 2014 (# = updated Dec '14)                  

Land Assessment for house Building - SHLAA

As far as is known the current proposal for possible development of East Field came about through a submission of a SHLAA.  This a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment form that the last Government devised to enable Planning Authorities to determine potential areas for house  building. They like our present Government being keen to promote more houses to be built.

 

Anyone who considered that an area could have 6 or more houses built on it could submit such a form.  The Planning Authority for East Field is Rother District Council(RDC) based in Bexhill whose area covers urban and rural areas of  Bexhill, Battle and Rye and surrounding villages.  RDC,whose planning decisions cannot be overruled by its  Town or Parish Councils, would check out each submitted SHLAA and for East Field they initially categorised it as 'Green'.

 

A 'Green' designation  meaning that Rother Planners considered there were, in their view, no major problems relating to East Field for potential house building development    (But see below).

 

Revised Planning Rules – Developers Happy #

Whilst the above was proceeding the current Government made major changes to the Planning Conditions in England that reversed the Planners' Role so they now fight in favour of a development rather than prove it unnecessary! This for Local Authorities to have substantial increases in house builds in their area.  Each Planning Authority having to prepare a Local Plan consisting of a Core Strategy followed by the Development & Site Allocations Plan both substantial documents requiring a Govt. Inspector's approval. See Current Position.

 

Local Plan – A call for 10,000 new houses for Rother with Hastings! #

In the initial Core Strategy preparation RDC Planning Officers put a figure of 4300 house builds to the Inspector, over the 2011-2028 period.

This she quickly persuaded the Officers to increase to 4800. Shortly after that the Govt abandoned the South East Regional Strategy and she suddenly increased her requirement for Rother with Hastings to a huge 9996!  Of this Rother to build some 6500! This eventually reduced, see Current Position.

 

Meeting with Rother Planners #                                                  

Subsequently a meeting was held with RDC's Planners and Fairlight Parish Councillors to discuss the position vis a vis the Inspector's huge house build increase and to talk over RDC's proposal for East Field. EFFAG were invited and attended and were able to fully join in the discussions. The Planners said that the near 10,000 builds with some 6500 for Rother were not tenable and RDC would probably dispute it but they would be able they thought to increase the 4800 by an extra 1000 more properties (mainly from areas opened up by the new Link Road construction) but would  be keeping the list of 30 for East Field. Subsequently reducing this to 20.

                                         

East Field SHLAA Category Downgraded

The meeting then discussed RDC's proposal for development of East Field.

It was emphasised that, as most Fairlight Residents know, the village is beset with surface water and foul sewage problems with continuous failures from pipeline overloading and general land area flooding, the latter clearly seen in photographs in this web site. For East Field (which not surprisingly in earlier periods was termed Pond Field ) it wasemphasised that there were not only the drainage but other problems especially lack of employment and infrastructure. From that  RDC were at least persuaded to change their category for the field's development to 'Amber' meaning there were potential problems that would need to be addressed. This was at last some sensible good news.

 

Planning Applications

If the finally approved Core Strategy includes East Field for potential development it would still be for a developer to put in a normal Planning Application as they could now and have done in the 1970's and 1980.Then all 3 were turned down, two on Appeal by a Government Inspector.  They were all considered unsustainable on many counts.   However if  the Core Strategy was finally  approved with East Field included for possible development and an application was turned down by RDC, but it went to appeal, it would likely get Government approval as they now want to promote house building even on green field sites.

For East Field little has changed since the earlier planning applications and  EFFAG & Fairlight Parish Council (FPC) still believe it should be rejected and not included in the Core Strategy.  The full  reasons can be seen set out in the Parish Council's  submission to Rother (see the Parish Council's Section on this Community Web Site) rejecting the inclusion. That including the fact that East Field is outside Rother's current development boundary and, in particular, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  

 

Market Garden Site # 

Regarding  another potential development site in the village, the inclusion by RDC of the Market Garden for development, although opposed by FPC, went to inquiry some years ago and RDC got approval for its inclusion in the  previous Core Strategy. This for at  least 17 houses to be allowed to be built on it, subject to an approved Planning Application.  In 2013 the developer showed to villagers a possible plan having 23 properties but no planning application was submitted. Subsequently the developer offered the Market Garden site to the Fairlight Preservation Trust (FPT), but at a cost of £1.3million.

The Trust have always given us their support and have strenuously fought and succeeded in achieving protection for Fairlight's coastline and  environmental aspects.  FPT intended to set up a working group to determine villager's views on what they would wish for in terms of its use and, we understood, whether it should or could be funded by the FPC, the community or others. The undulating but interesting site has knot-weed and  drainage problems and has a live badger set. Eventually this possible purchase was overtaken by the developer in July this year, 2014, putting in a Planning Application to develop 20 properties. See Current Position.

 

Neighbourhood Plan #

There have been calls for Fairlight to have the benefit of a Neighbourhood Plan (NP) which gives Parish residents a say to the Planning Authority (ie Rother DC) on the layout, building location and their style/appearance within a planned building site or Village/Town as a whole.

The NP was brought in by the present Government in their massive overhaul of the Planning system.   It seems an NP can  take some two years to complete with some cost of its preparation, with experts employed by the Parish Council on numerous varying aspects, funded from a Govt. Grant. However other costs, probably minor, would indirectly fall on Parishioners by use of the FPC's reserves or from an increased Precept in the Council Tax  (which increase at Dec '14 is still being decided).  In addition other costs arise as Rother's costs of arranging the voting by Parishioners on the Plan's finalised proposals would be funded by Govt. - out of Taxes!

The NP giving those directly affected a decisive say, ie Parishioners, sounds very good but of course such a Plan would only be necessary or introduced if there is development approved by the District Council or approved on Appeal by the Government.....and EFFAG and the Parish Council have repeatedly rejected development as unsustainable. The timing of the Core Strategy finalisation would in any case it seems rule out a NP being introduced that would relate to East Field's inclusion. See Current Position.

 

 

Current Position   Dec 2014

 

Local Plan –  Formed of 2 Parts:

Part 1: Core Strategy

The current position on this was set out in this extract of our insert to the Dec 2014-Feb 2015 issue of Fairlight News as follows:-

    “You will have no doubt heard that the Core Strategy forming Part 1 of the Local Plan has since been approved by the Councillors of Rother District Council (RDC).  That is a formal document and the 5800 number of houses stated therein are the minimum it requires to be built in Rother to the year 2028. Only13 years from 2015!”   

Rother's Planners are now proceeding with:-

 

Part 2: The Development & Site Allocation Plan

RDC Planners are assessing the sites that they identified in that Core Strategy to determine whether all the sites or other submissions would be included in The Development & Site Allocations Plan formingPart 2 of the Local Plan  This assessment, we were told by an RDC Planner in late October 2014, will be completed and its results forming a Draft Part 2 put out for Public Consultation in Summer 2015. There will then be a 6 week period for the public and Parish Councils etc. to make written comment.                                                                           

Before that discussion we were led to believe that that Consultation meant a public meeting with RDC's Planners attending but that is not the case at all, either for individual sites or all of them!

Perhaps his mention of reduced staff numbers relates!

He did confirm however that further meetings  would take place, between their Planning Officers and Fairlight Parish Council relating to the 44 house builds identified in the Core Strategy, including the 20 RDC allocated for East Field. For the latter EFFAG would be invited & we would attend.

After those public comments have been received in late summer 2015, the RDC Planners will prepare the final Part 2, probably taking a further year and then submit it to a Govt Inspector for approval. It appears this could also take a substantial time before final acceptance and approval via a public inquiry.

Once this Part 2 is adopted the sites have a status for possible house building but each subject to planning approval.Notwithstanding this Local Plan Part 2 document, a developer could apply forplanning approval now and could have done since the last application on East Field in the late 1970's. Presumably the large difficulties to overcome prevented this and hopefully that will also continue to prevent the desecration of this fine working field.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

 
Market Garden  (See 'Background') 

A Planning Application for 20 properties (11 detached houses and 9 apartments, none classed as affordable,was submitted by the Developer Gemselect in July 2014 and at early Dec '14 is being considered by Rother's

Planning Officers.  EFFAG as do Fairlight Parish Council believe that no further substantial development in Fairlight is required nor could it be tolerated in terms of overall traffic access/safety and environmental and resource impact. This including existing inadequate sewage & surface water facilities.

 

Neighbourhood Plan  (See 'Background' ) 

You would have no doubt heard that Fairlight Councillors have approved the idea of a Neighbourhood Plan (NP) and are going to formally ask villagers their views and if agreed commence its preparation. A NP is somewhat a double edged sword.  To agree to it tends to indicate that the village expects development, but if it is set up it gives some say in the looks & location of properties and as someone said, possibly the colour of the front doors!  It is obviously a bribe to make locals favour more house building & the Parish Council getting a much larger one off lump sum from each property completed. However a NP could help if unwanted approval was given to develop & as it covers other village aspects, general facilities, transport, schooling etc, for that it could be useful, we shall await the outcome with interest.

 

 

Summary

We therefore now have to await the outcome of the Planning Application of the Market Garden site, also what comes of our further EFFAG meeting(s) in the New Year with Rother's Planners regarding East Field.

Then (if East Field  is still in the Core Strategy via The Development & Site Allocation Plan for possible development), to  remind Villagers  in Late Summer 2015 that they have to submit their views on the possible development of East Field purely by written Submission to Rother as shamefully  Rother will not be holding any public meetings to discuss their identified sites for possible house builds. We hope the General Election in May 2015 will enlighten politicians to ensure vacant brown field sites are developed first. If it is still  included you can be assured that Fairlight and particularly us in the East Field Fairlight Action Group will not hesitate in putting the case for East Field remaining a prime ecological asset to Fairlight, East Sussex and the UK as a fine source of food for people or animals or even in bio-fuel production.  If you need convincing of our case perhaps the photos' and film clips here  give an idea of the benefits to Fairlight and beyond in keeping East Field as an important prime harvesting environment.
 

Some further images of East Field follow below but don't forget to look at EFFAG's Film of 'East Field ' which follows them.....!                 

 

 

Looking East on East Field's abundant 2014 'corn on the cob' crop..

..& who are those in its distant hedgerow safeguarding the field?

Why of course it's the new friends of Pip, Squeek & Wilfred

              (more advanced members of the village will remember them!)                       

 

                       Yes it's….....Plip, Squeet and Wilfee!


 

…the East Enders! Sorry the East Field Defenders! Riding high!

They know how important it is to keep East Field growing its fine produce within its great Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and hopefully safeguarded in this fantastic Village of Fairlight Cove!

Please now have a look at our Video and we are sure you will concur, & of course with your support we will conquer!

Thank you, Keith Jellicoe December 2014

for East Field Fairlight Action Group

 

 

Please note that all Images&video are copyright and may not be used without permission