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Maresfield's Local Development Framework Final Draft April 06
Contents Page no
1. Overview 2
2. Services and infrastructure 2
3. Leisure, Recreation and Culture 3
4. The Countryside and History 3
5. Business 3
6. Housing 3
7. Issues 5
8. Over-riding needs and Principles 6
1 Sustainability assessment 7
2 List of Clubs etc 8
1.1. Maresfield is an old village (its church was founded in approx 1100; the present nave and tower were built between 1375 and 1415). Fairwarp and Nutley developed as offshoots from it. Until 1926, it was a largely agricultural village, up to 1914 effectively in the ownership and control of the family in Maresfield Park House, initially the Shelley family and then Prince Munster. The estate was confiscated in 1914 by the government; and the Park and estate houses were sold off in 1924 as reparation for war damage, the Park being broken up into housing plots. In the First World War, a large army camp was developed, and later on parts of the village, at Queen's Drive and the southern part of Parklands, were developed as married quarters for soldiers.
1.2. There has been considerable recent development. Since approx 1990, substantial developments at the Cabin Café (now Mulberry Park), Park Farm (now The Paddock, Field End and Maple Close) and at Forest Park have increased the population of the village by about 1/3rd. New development of 80 dwellings is planned for Park Farm, which will further enlarge the village by about 1/6th.
1.3. Maresfield can easily appear on the map to be a northern suburb of Uckfield. However, to the north and east of the village are country lanes making a strong link to open countryside and many residents of the village are keen to see its separate and essentially rural identity maintained.
1.4. The present housing stock is largely satisfactory. Council housing in Parklands has been increasingly moved into private ownership, and is being improved; the proportion of well off people accordingly is increasing. But there is a need for housing available to young people and affordable housing for local people.
1.5. The population has a large component of retired and elderly people.
1.6. Many working people in the village travel out of the village to work; but there are several self-employed/sole trader businesses operating in or from the village, and several employers, who employ a mixture of local workers and of incomers. There are an increasing number of self-employed people working from home it is hard to know how many.
1.7. The village has its Village Hall, a church (expensive to maintain and under pressure of declining attendance), a good primary school (though under pressure for pupil numbers as the effect of the declining birth rate takes effect), a village paper shop/convenience store, and a sub-post office. These elements of village life are of great importance to the social structure and identity of the village, and their future well-being is important to the future well-being of the village. A list of the clubs etc in the village is attached as Appendix 2.
1.8. To a notable extent, village leisure activities are used by outsiders; though, of course, they are available and to some extent used by Maresfield residents.
2. Provision of services/Infrastructure
2.1. Residents have to travel out of the village for almost all significant services:
2.1.1. GP and dental/optician services
Uckfield (and to some extent Buxted, Newick and Forest Row)
Tunbridge Wells, Haywards Heath, Redhill, Crawley and Brighton
2.1.3. Secondary Education
2.1.4. Shopping Uckfield for everyday needs; but for department stores, a journey to Tunbridge Wells, Brighton or Crawley is needed.
But the village has a small convenience store
2.1.5. Banking Uckfield
2.2. There are relatively good bus services to/from Uckfield/East Grinstead, Uckfield/Haywards Heath, and Tunbridge Wells/Brighton (accessed from Coopers Green or by interchange at Uckfield). However, the first two services have significant gaps in parts of the day, and return journeys can accordingly be difficult. The services are not suitable for working people unless their end of day return home is early.
3. Leisure, recreational and cultural activity
Adult residents have an extensive range of locally provided leisure, culture and social activity provided by their own village groups, as shown in the list at Appendix 2.
3.1. The village is well served by many clubs and organisations and they are a vital element of the health of the village.
3.2. However, apart from sports clubs (football and tennis in particular) and the new play area at Parklands, the young are not well provided for.
3.3. There is a loudly voiced and widely held aspiration for the open ground south of the church to become a village green, and a wish among many people for an enlargement of the Recreation Ground.
4. The Countryside/The historic environment
4.1. The centre of the village is a conservation area. There was a Roman settlement, including a bloomery, and later a Norman village grew up around the church. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Maresfield was an important centre of the iron industry and a number of fine farmhouses such as Park Farm and the Gatehouse as well as former ironmaster houses such as Marshalls still exist. When the Shelleys inherited Maresfield Park in 1814 they moved in the highest political and social circles and attracted visits to Maresfield from the Duke of Wellington (a close personal friend, if not lover, of Lady Shelley), Queen Victoria, Sir Robert Peel and many others. Notwithstanding this, the Historical Society ahs recently closed thorough lack of support.
4.2. To the north and east of the village are country lanes, and many village people have enjoyed using them for walks and cycle and horse riding; but increasingly there are complaints about the behaviour of motorists making these lanes difficult, even dangerous, for amenity use.
5. Business in the village
An assessment of the extent of business based in the village needs to be made, including of its needs. A separate paper will be prepared on this later.
6.1. Maresfield has a number of houses and bungalows valued at the low end of the open market valuation scale. There is a backlog of unmet need for affordable housing and an ongoing need for its provision. The extent of this is uncertain, as we believe that the surveys carried out for WDC were not reliable, but its existence at a certain minimum level is clear. Accordingly, absent any change in market forces, provision is required to ensure that local people can stay in their community as they become independent.
6.2. Affordable housing is frequently identified as the principal need. But we wish also to see an assessment of the need for particular sizes of house and for the need of the elderly who may wish to "downsize", releasing their larger houses to families with children living at home, but who cannot now find suitable smaller houses. That said, we are not aware of a large element of emigration from the village by older people who cannot find suitable housing here.
6.3. Affordable Housing
6.3.1. We wish to see a better quality survey to find the level of need for affordable housing on a local needs basis (that is, for people who have existing or family or work connections with the village).
6.3.2. We support a policy for that need to be satisfied by a steady but gentle release of land we prefer to see a few houses built each year over several years than to have all anticipated need provided for in, say, a single two year development type scheme.
6.3.3. We support a policy allowing for self-build development of affordable housing, particularly as this shows commitment to the village by the people concerned; we believe there should be a priority for self-build development of single dwellings and of developments of up to four such dwellings.
6.3.4. We support a more flexible policy for affordable housing on the exception site basis such that small developments could be created where opportunities arise, particularly in the lanes north and east of Maresfield, in the Ashdown Business Park and elsewhere where development would not be excessive nor out of character with the immediate vicinity. Our country lanes, as elsewhere, have occasional small settlements of what once were farmworker or gatekeeper cottages. Policy should allow a carefully controlled extension of that settlement pattern.
6.3.5. There is also the opportunity to re-allocate some housing currently designated as holiday lets as affordable housing.
6.4. Maresfield Park is currently identified as "arcadian" in terms of local development control, with provision for low density to be maintained. There is a large area within the Park which is as yet undeveloped, and that land should either continue to be identified as agricultural/equestrian or as low density for housing purposes.
6.5. Maresfield has a large tract of land to its south which is bounded by the by-pass. History elsewhere in the UK shows that such land tends to be identified as suitable for development, as an integral extension of a village. Various issues arise in Maresfield's case, viz:
6.5.1. the recent growth in numbers of houses in the village and the prospect of 80 more means that occupiers of even more new homes will not be easily assimilated. It is to be noted that the last Local Plan looked to only 400 houses in the District's villages, and that Maresfield was allocated 20% of these. So the cohesion of the village indicates that it is time for a rest.
6.5.2. physical geography issues arising from the unfortunate practice in the past to abandon the traditional settlement pattern within villages whereby each section interlinks with others; thus Maresfield's recent growth has involved disfiguring creations of cul de sac type developments Robian Close, The Paddock, Field End, Forest Park and Mulberry Close, on top of Parklands and Queen's Drive from earlier years. Achieving cohesive development against this background is difficult. Avoiding through roads and the risk of rat-runs is desirable, but a means should be found to avoid ever more enclaves around the village villages thrive if there is easy communication between villagers and that requires easy movement of inhabitants through the village.
6.5.3. but the shopkeeper says that his business is not thriving and that it depends on passing trade from non-local traffic; this indicates that the village needs to be bigger to support a thriving shop
6.5.4. likewise, the village's school has been under pressure from falling population and limited intake; though this has recently been dealt with by reason of the school's high reputation (ie the school is now popular), its future would be more secure with a bigger catchment of primary age children
6.5.5. there is a strong desire to keep Maresfield's identity as an independent village, and a fear of the risk of becoming part of Uckfield
6.5.6. at secondary school level, it is understood that the Uckfield CTC can cope with currently anticipated increase in homes, but not expand further; so this is a limiting factor in terms of growth of Maresfield.
6.6. The village has not expressed a clear view of its response to these competing forces and of the desirability or otherwise of housing development to the south. Nor has it identified, if development has to happen, if it would like very limited development or would prefer a "big-bang" approach, ie for a very large development with the potential advantages of planning gain. This is understandable so long as the issues remain theoretical, and developments are hypothetical. But it is clear that there must be substantial engagement with and consultation of the village if any major development is contemplated.
6.7. Overall, it is perceived that:
6.7.1. the calls of some residents for growth to strengthen the village are outweighed by those people concerned by the potential strain of too much too fast; and that the long-term future needs to be carefully and slowly assessed by development of a master plan for the village.
6.7.2. Separation of the village and Uckfield both physically and mentally is important and should not be put at risk save after careful thought and planning to ensure that Maresfield can retain its separate identity. This impacts not only on planning for Maresfield but also for Uckfield. County and District planning needs to be based on a recognition that development south of the village and at Downlands Farm cannot both occur, and so development south of Maresfield would come at the price of restricted opportunity at the potentially larger site in Uckfield.
6.7.3. Areas in which major economic development is to occur (eg the Gatwick/Crawley area) must provide adequate local housing for their needs. Maresfield should not become a dormitory or the provider of new housing for workers who are to be brought to these new economic development areas.
7.1.1. Traffic issues are of serious concern to very large numbers of residents. The bypass was defectively designed so that it is perceived by many drivers as providing a slower route than the old A22 through Maresfield. There is unnecessary and excessive through traffic on the village's roads, with a problem also of excessive speeding. Whilst villagers must recognise their own inability to agree on an acceptable solution, it is to be hoped that solutions can be found and implemented. It is important that there is widespread acceptance of the existence of the issue, and that the solution will not be without disadvantage (no pain no gain) for Maresfield; and that any solution does not displace the problem to local country lanes or to other villages. Simply put, through traffic from Buxted and Uckfield needs to be directed to the north on and only on the by-pass.
7.1.2. Some local country roads (especially Nursery Lane and Underhill) are used as rat runs, with driving by the great majority of drivers which is only safe on the false assumption that all other road users are proceeding at walking speed and can and will get out of the way of the rat runners this makes the roads unsafe to horse riders and frightening to walkers and cyclists. Means must be found for country lanes to be preserved as such.
7.1.3. The lack of integrated and coherent planning for Park Farm, the Grampian site, Ashdown Business Park and the potential waste site is a major concern, and shows the inadequacy of our old planning system. Each of these sites, and all together, will have a major effect on Maresfield, particularly on use of Batts Bridge Road, High Street/School Hill/London Road; it requires overall assessment of the potential needs in highway and other infrastructure terms to avoid a piecemeal and ultimately unsatisfactory result. We recognise that this is a challenge in terms of conventional planning but we look to Wealden District Council to rise to it.
7.1.4. Limited availability of sites within the existing boundaries of the village for housing development mean that what is available should be reserved for unmet need for affordable housing and for people for whom new jobs have been/are to be created in the village/parish and its immediate vicinity. Thus incomers (excepting those who need affordable housing) will be confined to the existing housing stock (and new housing stock if it comes on the market).
7.1.5. Availability of health services is a concern, as it is dependent on future provision of new surgeries in Uckfield and Buxted and recruitment of new doctors phasing in with new housebuilding. For some (eg old) people, transport to and from doctors, dentists and hospitals is a problem.
7.1.6. The recent allocation of PCSOs to villages has led to a welcome degree of attention to local policing, and the individual officer performs her job as well as we could hope; the provision of PCSO's, though, is only satisfactory if they are regularly in attendance and any reduction from present levels would not be accepted. Occasional incidents of minor vandalism are evidence of a need for Police presence. The need for the Police to deliver hoped for improvements in Neighbourhood Policing and for enforcement action against the worst cases of illegal driving, especially careless driving in country lanes, is widely recognised.
7.2. District wide
7.2.1. There is widespread concern as to house building elsewhere and the demand it will place on resources/infrastructure, with the fear of their dilution in the established communities. It is imperative that planning for greater demand should provide for the newly created infrastructure demands to be satisfied on first demand, not at some later date when the reduced service to established communities has become intolerable.
7.2.2. There is great financial difficulty for young local people in making their homes in the villages with which they have close connections. The local need (ie for people whose origins or family connections are in the village or who work here) and available sites are such that only local need should be provided for in the village.
7.3. County wide
7.3.1. The impact of a waste site at the old Army Camp and of the development of the Ashdown Business Park needs assessment on terms of local traffic movement and on safety, especially at junctions and on local country lanes; and proper measures put in place, not a cut price, half-hearted solution, which is what is feared.
8. Over-riding needs and Principles
8.1. Residents of the village are keen to see its separate and essentially rural identity maintained.
8.2. There is a need for housing available to young people and affordable housing for local people; the extent of this needs to be more accurately assessed; and more realistic policy adopted to achieve delivery of affordable housing for local people
8.3. It is important for planning policy to allow for the open ground south of the church to become a village green, for provision of a site for a new, larger village hall (the present hall is too small for some purposes (and will become unsatisfactory if there are new houses) and for an enlargement of the Recreation Ground.
8.4. There must be substantial engagement with and consultation of the village if any major development is contemplated.
8.5. A local plan is required which addresses on an integrated basis the locale (ie Buxted as well as Maresfield, and westward into Fletching on A272) in terms of the impact of potential developments at the Grampian site, Park Farm and other land south of Maresfield, Ashdown Business Park and any waste site
8.6. It is important to the village that
8.6.1. Services are not reduced, either in absolute terms or by dilution as new external demands occur
8.6.2. Highways issues (especially speeding on Straight Half Mile and Batts Bridge Road, by-pass avoidance on those same roads and on High Street/School Hill/London Road) are addressed and, to the extent possible, solved.
8.6.3. Action is taken to re-balance the residents/road users equation in the lanes to the north and east of the village
List of clubs etc
Field End & Maple Close residents association
JG Theatre club
Maresfield bowls club
Maresfield lawn tennis club
Maresfield Parish Council
Maresfield residents assoc.
Maresfield Badgers short mat bowls
Maresfield bonfire society
Maresfield Dynamos junior football club
Mother & baby/toddler group
Parklands residents' assoc.
St. Bartholomew's church
Uckfield gymnastic club (Maresfield Leisure Centre)
Village hall committee
Wealden Bowls club
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