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Eton New Town

In recent years, the Government has changed national planning policies and how it calculates the numbers of homes each area should aim to provide. Lewes District Council is currently looking at the required revisions to its local plan which has now expired. Accordingly, it has issued a consultation document entitled in short “Issues and Options”. Recently, on one of the Society strolls, members took the opportunity to walk round the North Barns Farm area, sight of the proposed Eton New Town. If it went ahead it would have a profound impact on not only the views out from and into the South Downs.

As ever, one of the key components are the plans to meet the requirement for more housing. The initial findings were that, to meet the Government targets, 602 houses would need to be built per annum, compared to 385 houses per annum in the current plan. In the last year, 242 new houses were built. Consultations run until the end of 2023 and the plan should be finally agreed by 2025, for delivery from 2026, covering the period to 2040.

There are some severe restraints. The District is constricted by the sea to the south, the National Park and the proximity to the Ashdown Forest. Along the coast, infrastructure is poor, e.g., the congested A259, but also within the Low Weald. Yet these are the only areas where new housing development can be accommodated, unless it is tacked onto to the eastern parts of Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath, both of which are already subject to massive expansion, with the Northern Arc scheme of circa 3000 houses.

The coastal strip covers Seaford, Newhaven, Peacehaven and Telscombe. The Low Weald encompasses the villages of Barcombe, Broyle, the Chaileys, Cooksbridge, East Chiltington, Newick, Plumpton, Ringmer and Wivelsfield.

Another approach, as in other Districts, is the suggestion of an entirely new settlement. Hence, North Barnes Farm and the surrounding area near East Chiltington and Plumpton Green, which is owned by Eton College, has come forward as one of the options for the Eton New Town. This totals some 465 acres. Welbeck Land have worked up detailed proposals for a new live/work community to be created over 25 years with a phased “place making approach”. It is suggested the focus would be on agricultural and horticultural activities with the creation of 2750-3500 jobs and 25,000 to 30,000 sq. m. of “workspaces”.  If you drive around that area you will see this scheme is not popular with almost every house bearing a “No Eton New Town” poster.

All of this however has now been kicked into touch, as the new Secretary of State has called for a pause on the new Housing Bill. Included in these the proposals, as part of the drive for more housing, was a new formula, known as the standard method, to determine the required housing provision, based on population projections and local affordability data. That method gives the higher hosing targets above but may now be revised.

Pictured is a map showing the area under consideration at North Barnes. Here is a link to the map, illustrating just how big this development is. Recently on one of the Society strolls, members took the opportunity to walk round the area, which might be involved. If it went ahead, it would have a profound impact on views out from and into the Downs, which would be one of our concerns. The Bevern stream runs though land, which is an important spawning area for sea trout. As ever there are no zero cost options.

Patrick Haworth,