Major Battle housing development permitted

The next step in a major housing development in Battle has been given the go ahead by Rother planners.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 3:42 pm

On Thursday (April 14), Rother District Council’s planning committee approved a reserved matters application (from the council itself) to build 200 houses on part of the Blackfriars site, on the east side of Battle. 

Before making its decision the committee heard from some of the scheme’s designers, including  sustainability consultant Judy Ong, who spoke about how energy efficiency was at the heart of the scheme.

She said: “Rother District Council has declared a climate emergency and is working towards developing a carbon neutral vision for 2030. Blackfriars offers a unique opportunity to drive this agenda forward.

“With this in mind our vision for Blackfriars is to develop a highly sustainable contemporary housing development that is future proofed for the transition to zero carbon while respecting local heritage and landscape.

“All properties have been designed to be low energy following the fabric first principles, so they are designed with increased insulation standards so homes feel warm and comfortable for the occupant while reducing the energy consumption and risk of fuel poverty.”

Ms Ong said all of the properties would be built to exceed current energy efficiency requirements, but some of the properties would go further still by being built to Passivhaus principles. Such buildings have extremely low energy requirements. 

She said some of the other properties would be “earth-sheltered” for another form of high high energy efficiency. Every single building would also have air source heat pumps, which are three-and-a-half times as efficient as a normal electric heating systems.

These energy-efficiency aspirations proved popular with committee members, who said they hoped it would become an exemplar for other developments.

Cllr Sam Coleman (Lab) said: “The term gold standard is being used a lot. Hopefully one day this might be just the standard. 

“I think this is absolutely a really positive way to build houses, especially in the quantity this is. I’m really glad about the environmental considerations that have been made.

“Personally I would like to see a higher percentage of social housing, a higher percentage of affordable housing, but I appreciate that we have to deal with, your friend and mine, viability.”

While approved, the scheme had seen some significant opposition from some Battle residents. The objectors raised a wide range of concerns, including: issues around drainage, highways pressures and the overall suitability of the site for development.  

Some of these concerns were voiced by ward councillor Kevin Dixon (Lib Dem), who said: “I think it has got to be noted that this isn’t a development that is universally welcomed in Battle. Neighbours have been campaigning against this for a while and are still campaigning against it. 

“I think we need to manage the construction work very, very carefully so as not to upset disrupt more than necessary the local population. A lot of people have been living next to this site as countryside for many, many years and it is going to be a bit of a shock to them.

“Having said all that, I personally welcome the innovative approach to the whole scheme. It will be something we have never done before. It will be an example to the rest of the district and other authorities locally.

“I hope it is something that we can be very, very proud of and I do hope also that the local population will come to like it and appreciate what we are doing and what we are going to achieve on Blackfriars once it is done.”

Similar views on were voiced by Cllr Kathryn Field and Cllr Vikki Cook, whose North Battle, Netherfield and Whatlington ward neighbours the site. 

Cllr Dixon had also raised concerns about the council’s planning committee deciding on the scheme given its connection to it as landowner and applicant. Officers disputed this point, arguing that the planning system is independent. 

The full site had been granted outline permission for up to 220 homes last year. 

The application covers three large fields on the western side of the site, within which 200 new homes are proposed. They are proposed to be a mix of sizes and types including one- and two-bed flats, together with two-, three- and four-bed houses.

The remaining 20 units, set for a plot in the north east corner of the site, are expected to be considered at a later date. 

As well as deciding on details of the site’s design, the committee was also asked to approve the development’s landscape and management plan. Other ecology mitigation and enhancements were agreed at the outline stage and works have already started on their implementation.

For further details of the application see reference RR/2020/2307/P on the Rother District Council website.