it is not possible to escape the conclusion that, had the Council properly engaged with and heeded Natural England’s advice and had the Council properly involved itself in a constructive discussion with neighbouring authorities about both the impacts of the plan and the ability to help in meeting Eastbourne’s unmet housing need, the overarching development strategy of the submitted LP – the planned quantum and distribution of development, and whether the Council considers itself to be in a position to be able to take any of Eastbourne’s unmet housing needs – could have been
different. As has been shown, the Council chose not to accept the advice ofNatural England in respect of emissions modelling but selected a model which failed to take into account known factors influencing future emissions. This approach, by overstating future emissions and hence likely effects on the Ashdown Forest and potentially other SACs, has had the potential to magnify constraints, constrain development potential and so inappropriately influence possible development scenarios. The Council has not been transparent when presenting these constraints to Eastbourne Council and other authorities. It has not actively shared its evidence base and addressed key cross-boundary issues with other authorities in a timely manner (including contributing meaningfully to SoCGs) and has not worked collaboratively in jointly addressing the implicationsof the reduction of its plan period and has not engaged in constructive discussion in respect of the distribution of development and the accommodation of Eastbourne’s unmet needs.
What it should have done is simple
- Work proactively with Eastbourne to identify sites that met their unmet need
- Consulted on them
- Tested them with Appropriate Assessment
- Taken Natural England’s advice
- Then decided at submission, based on that advice, whether or not their inclusion would breach the Habitats Directive.
After all scientif opionion can vary and change, and exclusion of sites because of HD reasons can only really be taken at the last step before submission. By stating something as a scientific fact when it was disputed Wealden took a foolhardy line. By the way the head of policy at Weladen is a scientist.