Wealden District Council has decided to withdraw its objections concerning two planning appeals following extensive legal advice.
Developers lodged appeals after the council’s planning committee refused permission for two applications within the Wealden area.
Those appeals are due to be held imminently but a decision was made on Thursday not to defend them after the council was told some of its original objections have no basis, and would be unlikely to succeed with the authority facing large financial costs.
The first focuses on an application to build up to 200 homes on land west of Station Road, Hailsham. The planning application was refused by members of Wealden’s Planning Committee South in February this year on highway grounds.
The developer has appealed that decision and a hearing is due to take place next week.
The second is an application to build 700 homes, a new medical centre, school and community centre at Mornings Mill Farm, Eastbourne Road, Lower Willingdon. Members of the council’s planning committee refused the application last year on highways and transport issues, together with criticism about location of the site and effects of development drainage. That appeal will take place in September.
In an exempt session at a meeting of the council’s Planning Committee South on Thursday, councillors were told by independent legal experts they could not defend the indefensible.
The appeals will still go ahead and all submissions lodged to the council will be placed in front of the Planning Inspector.
Local councillors in the south of the Wealden district have made it clear they will be attending the appeals in a personal capacity to represent the local communities.
Those that have registered to do so will also be able to address the inspector in person to air their concerns. However, on the clear and firm advice from external lawyers the council will not offer evidence in each appeal.
Wealden District Council leader Councillor Ann Newton, who also holds the portfolio for Planning, said, “It is with a very heavy heart that the council has had to withdraw its representations to defend these two appeals. This decision has not been taken lightly. We have taken advice from the very best legal experts who have told us they cannot defend the indefensible.
“Concerning the application for land west of Station Road, Hailsham, the committee’s grounds for refusal was that it would have a severe impact on the traffic network. Advice from Queen’s Counsel shows there is no evidence to support this and therefore our argument would fail on appeal.
“Regarding the Mornings Mill Farm application, the committees refused the application again on highways evidence but also relating to location of the site and concerns about effects on drainage. On highways, it has been made clear to us this argument is now baseless and again there is no evidence to support this. On the other reasons, legal advice is clear, that to pursue these would not be justified.
“We have come to the end of the corporate democratic road as a district council but the option is still there for local members to appear at the appeals and make representations.
“As elected members, we are here to protect the public purse and to continue to defend these appeals would not be in the best interest and go against all the advice we have been given.”