Update on the Wadhurst Neighbourhood Plan (WNP)

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Update on the Wadhurst Neighbourhood Plan (WNP)

(not to be confused with the draft Local Plan of Wealden District Council (WDC), our local Planning authority, which is currently being consulted on)


Following many years of hard work by volunteers and numerous consultations with parishioners, the WNP is reaching its final stage.  It is being put to parishioners in a parish referendum on 2 May 2024.


The WNP is a Planning document that guides any development that happens in our parish and influences what facilities are provided in Wadhurst. Notably, the WNP contains a Design Code that steers any new development to be in keeping. One reason to have a neighbourhood plan is that it allows 25% of any developer contributions (known as Community Infrastructure Levy) to be received by the Parish Council, compared to 15% where there is no neighbourhood plan. These monies can then be spent on providing new facilities or enhancing existing facilities for the local community.


The latest step in the WNP’s process has been its examination by a statutory examiner.  Disappointingly, for those that have been following the WNP’s evolution, a number of policies intended to achieve its Objectives have been removed or amended by the Examiner. A summary of these and the rationale given by the Examiner for their removal can be found below**, with most changes being due to the Examiner’s view that these items were either not matters for a neighbourhood plan or that WDC’s current policy framework did not allow them.


So, compared to the WNP that was presented for examination, the outcome is disappointing to the WNP volunteers. However, parishioners should compare the post-examination version, the subject of the referendum, against the potential outcome of not having any Wadhurst Neighbourhood Plan when they cast their vote.


Residents should also consider the Examiner’s comments on the restrictions created by the gaps in WDC’s existing Planning policy framework when responding to WDC’s current consultation on their new draft local plan.


If the Wadhurst Neighbourhood Plan is approved by a majority in the 2 May referendum it would mean:


  • the policies* in the WNP will be used by WDC – alongside the policies of its own adopted Local Plan – to determine planning applications in the Parish, &


  • Wadhurst will receive an increase in Community Infrastructure Levy (from 15% to 25%) to finance infrastructure




*Outline of the Wadhurst Neighbourhood Plan Policies:


WAD1 LOCATION OF DEVELOPMENT Describes where development will be supported and where it will be resisted
WAD2 MEETING LOCAL HOUSING NEEDS Describes the mix of housing sizes, types, tenures and affordability that will be supported.
WAD3 DESIGN AND CHARACTER OF DEVELOPMENT Describes the design and character requirements to maintain Wadhurst’s unique sense of place
WAD4 SUSTAINABILITY AND DESIGN Describes how appropriate sustainable design features will be supported
WAD 5 CONSERVING HERITAGE ASSETS Describes how heritage assets will be assessed and how non-designated heritage assets may be identified
WAD6 CONSERVATION AREAS Describes the requirement to preserve and enhance the character of our two conservation areas
WAD7 SAFE AND SUSTAINABLE MOVEMENT Describes how safe and sustainable movement will be supported
WAD8 CAR PARKING PROVISION Describes how loss of parking will not be supported and additional publicly accessible car parking will be supported
WAD9 EMPLOYMENT RETENTION AND LOCAL ECONOMY VIABILITY Describes how new employment activities and retention of employment activities will be supported
WAD10 SUPPORTING SUSTAINABLE RURAL TOURISM Describes how sustainable tourism will be supported
WAD11 COMMUNICATION INFRASTRUCTURE SUPPORT Describes how development will require communication infrastructure (and how this should be provided with little or no visual impact on the landscape)
WAD12 CONSERVATION OF THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, ECOSYSTEMS AND BIODIVERSITY Describes how proposals should be designed to create and enhance green infrastructure and how they must follow mitigation hierarchy when considering biodiversity impacts.
WAD13 BEWL WATER RESERVOIR AREA AND ASSOCIATED PUBLIC ACTIVITIES Describes the social and environmental factors that tourism-related development at Bewl must comply with
WAD14 PROTECTION OF DISTINCTIVE AND HIGHLY VALUED VIEWS Describes how the impact on ten locally significant views must be considered in any development that could impact them
WAD15 LOCAL GREEN SPACES Describes the designation of five local green spaces and how they will be considered in the same way as Green Belt
WAD16 PROTECTION OF DARK SKIES Describes how dark skies should be considered in development proposals
WAD17 IMPORTANT COMMUNITY FACILITIES Describes how the loss of important community facilities will not be supported






**In summary, the Examiner has removed:

  • the policy intended to prevent a worsening of traffic congestion. This was because the Examiner considered the policy to be a matter for the highways authority instead of a neighbourhood plan. While he is technically correct, it was included as it is a major concern of the community


  • all the 9 Green Gaps intended to prevent coalescence between communities and settlements in Wadhurst Parish. This was mainly because the Examiner did not consider Wealden DC to have a strategic policy on avoiding coalescence, unlike other district councils


  • 5 of the 10 Local Green Spaces in the Plan, being at Bewl Water, Stone Cross Farm field, the Turners Green ‘boxing’ fields and the ex-Wadhurst College recreational field. The Examiner considered they did not meet the necessary criteria


  • the policy intended to resist major infrastructure developments such as solarfarms, wind turbine farms, fracking, mining, gas/nuclear or power


  • the limitation on development of tourism attractions and facilities to existing attractions and facilities in the Parish, which was preferred in responses to the Household Consultation. The policy now also enables the development of new tourism attractions and facilities throughout the Parish. The Examiner considered the Plan’s more protective policy to be contrary to Wealden and national policy


  • the policy intended to protect Bewl Water (and its status as a wildlife centre) and replaced it with one focused on facilitating tourism-related development at Bewl Water. The Examiner took account of:


  • strong objections to the policy by Wealden DC and on behalf of the owner and operator of the recreational and leisure area at Bewl Water, &
  • a “general encouragement to sustainable tourism development” in Wealden’s local Plan (which the Examiner considered will continue in future Wealden Plans) and national policy.


  • the protection given to Wadhurst’s non-designated heritage assets (such as our much-loved green triangles). The Examiner was unable to allow the policy as WDC do not currently keep a ‘local list’ of non-designated heritage assets


  • 17 of the 26 community facilities from the policy intended to prevent their loss. The Examiner considered the 17 are either:


  • not community facilities, or
  • they are protected by other mechanisms, or
  • do not need such protection


  • an element of the protection of the 16 Distinctive and Highly Valued Views