Concerns Rother housing shortfall could be abused

Rother District Council
Rother District Council

Councillors were concerned about the possibility of houses being built excessively in Rother as the district’s development plans are ‘out of date’ due to a shortfall.

Rother District Council’s housing supply is less than expected which has essentially nullified its development boundaries and to rectify the situation, cabinet agreed that proposals outside of those boundaries will be ‘considered favourably’ at a meeting this morning (Monday, June 6).

Members were worried this could lead to developers taking advantage of the necessity and building homes in unsuitable locations because they could in theory ignore the plans.

Officers assured them the planning committee would still be in control of development but Cllr Lord Ampthill was still concerned about encouraging homes being built outside of the boundaries.

“The more I look at it, the more it concerns me,” he said.

“Why should any application be considered more favourably than another? Are we wise to include a remark about circumstances where they’re not in a development boundary?

“Why should we now go beyond our normal rules?”

The council is supposed to have a five-year supply of houses, equalling 335 dwellings per year, but between April, 2011, and October, 2015, only 147 were built per year.

Officers blamed the delay in building the Bexhill to Hastings Link Road which in turn delayed the development of North East Bexhill, as well as the recession, for not being able to hit its targets.

Also two sites earmarked for homes – Blackfriars in Battle and Turkey Road in Bexhill – are not allowed to be included in the council’s expectations as they cannot be relied on deliver houses in the next five years, according to officers.

The result is a housing supply of 4.6 years and all of the development boundaries in the district’s local plans are out-of-date as they relied on a five-year supply.

Part of the solution to turn the situation around is to encourage house-building projects including those outside of the boundaries, which need to be redrawn.

The planning committee will still be able to reject plans with considerations to areas of outstanding natural beauty for example, but more proposals are anticipated.

Cllr Eleanor Kirby-Green was worried for more-desirable rural areas that could be exploited by the shortfall.

“It’s very unfortunate we are in this position, in rural areas particularly villages like Ticehurst and Burwash, they’re constantly under-threat from developers and I think that this does put us at risk,” she said.

Strategic planning portfolio holder Gillian Johnson pointed out Rother is not the only council in this position and assured councillors it is doing all it can to fix the issue.

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