A High Court judge has backed Wealden District Council in its fight against a development of 169 affordable homes on the outskirts of Hailsham, as no funds would have been forthcoming for vital infrastructure in the area. 

A ruling by High Court judge The Hon Mrs Justice Thornton vetoed plans by housing provider Stonewater, for the new houses and flats on land at Oaklands, Ersham Road, to be 100 per cent affordable housing. Affordable housing is accommodation for sale or rent, for those people whose needs are not met by the market and who are on the council housing register.  

The decision is a victory for Wealden District Council which had pursued what is being widely seen as a test case in the country. The Council argued that if all homes on the site were made affordable, the developers would qualify for Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) relief. This would mean funds paid by developers to contribute towards providing much needed facilities in the area – like schools, medical facilities and transport infrastructure – would not have to be paid. The CIL payment for the Ersham Road site is worth in the region of £3 million to the Council, providing the developer builds the appropriate mix of affordable and market rate accommodation.

Cllr Ann Newton Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Planning and Development said,

“This is a welcome decision by the court. Our approach has always been to secure a range of accommodation in our developments and this is reflected in our policy securing for 35 per cent affordable housing of qualifying dwellings.

“A greater proportion of affordable housing cannot be provided at any cost, not least to achieving mixed and balanced communities without key infrastructure.” 

Planning permission for 169 new homes on the site was originally granted by the Council in May 2020, on the grounds that 35 per cent – 59 homes – would be affordable housing. The site was later acquired by Stonewater, which then wanted to proceed with delivering all 169 homes as affordable ones; making them eligible for Community Infrastructure Levy relief and avoiding any infrastructure costs. That outcome did not accord with the original permission, nor how it had been assessed and determined.

Going forward, any developer who wishes to provide more than the policy requirement affordable housing must declare this in order that planning applications are considered transparently.