Minutes of a Meeting of the Wealden District Association of Local Councils held via Zoom on Wednesday 18th January 2023 at 7.00 pm

1. Present: Councillors Keith Stevens (Chairman, Wartling), Robert Nathan (Hartfield), Deveda Redman (Mayfield and Five Ashes), Martyn Garrett (Crowborough), Geoff Sambrook (Isfield), Nikos Mikelis (Chiddingly), Michael Garner (Arlington), Roy Iremonger (Warbleton), Keith Graham (Warbleton), Douglas Murray (Polegate), Graham Knight (Horam), Susan Cole (East Hoathly with Halland), Christine Payne (Willingdon and Jevington), Andy Watkins (Willingdon and Jevington), Stephen Shing (Willingdon and Jevington), Martin Cooper (Willingdon and Jevington), Philip Moore (Wadhurst), Penny Strudwick (Hellingly), Pat Coffee (Heathfield), Miranda Dart (Laughton) and Alison Dunbar Dempsey (Chalvington with Ripe).

Also in attendance; Mr Lee Dance (South East Water), Ms Jo Shippey (South East Water), Ann Newton (Wealden District Council), Chris Bending (Wealden District Council) and Alison Stevens (Honorary Secretary).

2. Apologies for Absence: Apologies for absence were received from: Beryl Smith (Berwick), Sally Carnie (Berwick), Jackie Langley (Ninfield), Shirley McKinnon (Pevensey), Martin Craddock (Maresfield), Kay Moss (Crowborough), Tony Blake (Danehill), Chris Rothery (Fletching) and David Harding (Herstmonceux),

3. Draft Minutes of the Association Meeting held on the 12th October 2022 – The minutes of the Association Meeting held on the 12th October 2022 were read, approved by all and signed by the Chairman.

4. Speaker Mr Lee Dance, Head of Water Resources at South East Water.

The Chairman welcomed Mr Dance and Ms Shippey from South East Water. Mr Dance described South East Water’s Draft Water Resources Management Plan. His presentation covered details of;

i.          the company’s achievements since its last plan

ii.         how this plan has been created

iii.        how it plans for the future.

Slides from his presentation will be distributed with these minutes and are also available from the Honorary Secretary.

In answer to councillor’s questions he said;

  • Building a reservoir is a long term plan partly because the planning process is a lengthy one.
  • Working from home during Covid resulted in a temporary rise in demand but it was manageable.
  • 15 – 20% of water is currently lost from leakages but this figure has been reducing since the 1990s thanks to improvements in technology.
  • The figures used are based on the planned population growth because it has proved to be more reliable than the figure for housing growth.
  • Work is underway to educate both domestic and businesses to use less water.

District Councillor Newton announced that South East Water will be attending the next meeting of the Scrutiny Panel to answer questions councillors have about the problems residents in the north of the District experienced during the recent ‘big freeze’.

5. Updates from Wealden District Council

Councillor Ann Newton and Chris Bending read from their report which said;


Despite some disruption to services during the icy conditions before Christmas, waste collection performance remains good with an average of 44 missed bins per 100,000 collections, that’s a 99.95% successful collection rate. Biffa are required to maintain collection performance at 77 or fewer missed bins per 100,000 collections.   Improvements have been made in particular for customers with assisted collections, with a reduction of 70% of missed bins.

Government has indicated that all authorities will be required to start collecting food waste weekly and separate from rubbish during 2025.  We are working with Government to clarify how they intend to fund this additional service and with Biffa to plan how it will be introduced. Full details will be sent to all households in advance of any food waste collection service starting.

Following the recent periods of heavy rainfall and icy conditions however, the state of many road surfaces across Wealden has deteriorated with an increase in the prevalence of potholes.  In such locations this often results in accumulations of the damaged road material beside the pothole. The Street Scene Team are working hard to identify these locations and arrange for the material to be removed however the number of locations is high.  Even after the loose material is initially removed, until the pothole is repaired further accumulations are likely to occur which places an additional strain on street cleansing resources.


The government has announced the NPPF consultation which include changes to some of the housing delivery mechanisms that penalised Wealden. Given the significance to our local plan we have delayed our local plan to properly account for the impact of these proposed changes and ensure that we are building for the right number of homes.

We are currently preparing our response to the government consultation and will publish our response online. We want to encourage all Parishes to respond to the consultation to help provide ‘balance’ to developers and others in the process with a vested interest in greater levels of housebuilding in Wealden.

We are working hard to hold SW to account for their failure to deliver upgraded infrastructure. We are working with over 20 Councils from across the region to have maximum influence on SW and if necessary their regulators OFWAT and the EA.


Facts and figures

  • District 45 seats over 41 wards
  • Parish 438 seats over 39 parishes and 86 electoral areas

             Which equals 127 elections!

  • 600+ candidates
  • Over 100 polling stations
  • 300+ polling station staff
  • 2 Count centres – both at East Sussex National –  count is on 5 May
  • 200+ count staff
  • 25,000 postal votes

Voter ID

  • Electors will need to produce photographic ID for verification before ballot papers can be issued.
  • Full list of acceptable photographic ID available on Electoral Commission web site
  • Anyone without acceptable photographic ID can apply for a Voter Authority Certificate – online or paper form from 16 January 2023 – Contact Electoral services.

How can Parishes help?

  • Publicise dates eg, nominations close 4pm on 4 April
  • Raise awareness of Voter ID – Electoral Commission has lots of useful stuff
  • Post-election – send Register of Interests and Acceptance of Office forms to Committee Services Team
  • Remind all candidates that they need to submit a Declaration of Expenses form – even if uncontested/no money spent.

Community Lottery

Launch event on 1 February

Live ticket sales will be available from the 21st February 2023.  Members of the public will be able to purchase tickets online, and support the good cause of their choice. Tickets will cost £1 a week. The draw will be weekly with a jackpot of £25,000, other prizes being £2,000, £250 and £25. The first live draw will commence on Saturday 25th March.

Parishes are asked to help publicise the lottery and encourage local groups/charities to sign up to the lottery.’

In answer to councillors questions they confirmed;

  1. The NPPF consultation recommends changes to both the Housing Delivery Test and five year land supply rules. At the moment, both tests work against Wealden, given that the basis is the standard method and to both require more homes than they have ever sought to deliver in a local plan. It is important that we all respond to the consultation and keep lobbying to help ensure that the changes to both tests are built into the final version of the NPPF and ideally strengthened with changes to the standard method. They are aiming to publish their response to the government consultation around a week before the end of the consultation and will make it available on their website.
  2. They are working with South East Water to produce a more accurate list of vulnerable residents.

6. Overdevelopment in Wealden

Councillor Mikelis read from his report which read as follows;

‘WDALC at its 2022 AGM agreed that the Chiddingly Working Group against Over-Development would become a WDALC working group. Consequently, the group reports here its activities since WDALC’s meeting of 12 October 2022.

At the request of the WGOD a meeting was held with Wealden District Council on 19 October 2022. The meeting took place at the WDC offices in Hailsham and was attended by the Leader of WDC; its Director for Planning and Economic Development; its Head of Planning Policy; and five members of our working group. The purpose of the meeting was to explore whether WDC intended to use the “standard method” to derive the housing requirement for the new Local Plan; to hear about WDC’s efforts to influence Southern Water to improve its poor environmental performance; to raise the concerns local councils have over WDC’s ability to defend appeals by developers to the Planning Inspectorate; and to understand WDC’s policy position on solar farms and the erosion of agricultural/pastoral land. The meeting was very useful in cementing the working group’s belief that we need to maintain active support to WDC’s efforts in opposing the government’s top-down planning.

We developed contacts with the Rother Association of Local Councils, as well as the Plumpton Group of 11 local councils in the Lewes district. We established that we share identical concerns and frustrations from overdevelopment. Then, following communications with the MPs in our region, a meeting was organised and held on 15 November to discuss the overdevelopment of our East Sussex, between the representatives of local councils from the districts of Rother, Wealden and Lewes, with four Members of Parliament from East Sussex. The Rother councils were represented by the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Rother Association of Local Councils and by the Chairman of Westfield Parish Council; The Wealden councils were represented by the Chairman and two members of the WGOD; and the Lewes councils were represented by the Chairman, Vice Chairman and a councillor of Plumpton Parish Council. The MPs were: Ms Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes; Ms Nusrat Ghani, Conservative MP for Wealden; Ms Sally-Ann Hart, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye; and Mr Huw Merriman, Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle. We stressed that the “standard method” with its tests that are designed to be failed ​in most areas and to lead to the so called “presumption of sustainable development”, are worthy of Machiavelli. Whereas we can understand that the government’s motives are to encourage economic activity, nevertheless the price we pay in the Southeast is ​far too high. The primary demand of the representatives of the local councils of the three districts is that the government needs to recognise the problem they have created and therefore needs to abolish the top-down housing targets before more damage is done.  The four MPs expressed their understanding of the problem and of the frustration felt by the residents of the region. They said that believe in localism and therefore the ability of Local Planning Authorities to decide what is appropriate for their district. They said that new houses are needed but of the right type, at the right locations, and with the right infrastructure. They suggested that the Levelling Up Bill is providing a real opportunity to achieve this. In particular, the amendments that were being promoted by Ms Teresa Villiers MP were intended to address the exact problems the representatives of the local councils had explained.

Mrs Villiers MP and Mr Seely MP had led a group of 70 MPs who had objected to the “standard method” and its effects on planning. They had proposed several important amendments to the “Levelling Up Bill”, which would have addressed all our concerns. However, the Secretary of State, managed to appease the dissenting MPs with promises of serious changes in the Bill. Consequently, the amendments were withdrawn by the dissenting MPs. On the 5 December Mr Gove wrote to MPs outlining the changes he will be making to the Bill. However, on close reading of this letter, we felt that his proposals fell very short of the measures proposed by Mrs Villiers and Mr Seely. Therefore, on 12 December a letter was sent to Mrs Teresa Villiers and Mr Robert Seely by our working group, the Plumpton Group of 11 parish Councils, and the Rother Association of Local Councils to alert the MPs of our grave concerns.

Just before Christmas, the government published its prospectus for revising the National Planning Policy Framework for a consultation that will end on 2nd March 2023. However, the draft revised NPPF as well as the Levelling Up Bill do not address the positions of Mrs Villiers and reaffirm the use of the standard method in its current form, with only the potential for a review of the inputs after the 2021 Household Projections are published in late 2024.

Whereas the use of the standard method was never mandatory, the Planning Inspectorate had always required its use! Going forward, the standard method is still required to provide the starting figure of housing need, but the housing requirement is permitted to be less should there be genuine constraints. Unfortunately, the list of permitted genuine constraints is generally not applicable to Wealden, meaning that they will be unable to claim much, if any, relief. For Wealden’s new plan, for which a draft is anticipated after the May elections, we hope that they will be able to justify a housing number considerably less than that provided by the standard method. Ideally, the housing requirement in the new plan should be less than the 746 per year achieved over the last five years that has resulted in so much local disquiet. There are avenues within the forthcoming NPPF changes around character, density and past “oversupply” that could be used to make a case for a housing requirement less than the 1,212 per year, but this may require a level of political bravery to exploit these opportunities.

Finally, it is noted that the WG had set up the Support Group under the Chairmanship of Cllr Alison Dunbar-Dempsey, Vice Chair of Chalvington with Ripe PC. The Support Group wrote to all local councils in Wealden in mid-October 2022 offering its services to any councils facing an unwanted large scale planning application. So far, the Support Group has received no requests for help from any local council’.

Councillor Sambrook asked for a volunteer with the relevant skills to carry out the PR and Press Role for the Group. Anyone who would like to volunteer is invited to contact him at Isfield Parish Council.

Councillor Dunbar Dempsey said the Support Group also sent guidelines out on how to respond to planning applications to each Town and Parish Council.

7. Reports from Outside Meetings

Councillor Stevens attended an on-line event about the Coronation. NALC is now waiting for the official instructions but the Pageant Master, Bruno Peake, has confirmed that it is the King’s wish that Town and Parish Councils do not light beacons because it is too soon after the Jubilee celebrations for his mother. Beacons will however be lit for the 80th Anniversary of D Day next year.

Parish and Town Councils are invited to advertise any events they are holding to celebrate the Coronation on the Wealden District Council website. Details should be sent to PR@wealden.gov.uk.

8. Next Association Meeting: The next Association Meeting will be held on the on 12th July 2023. Venue to be confirmed. Meetings may be alternated in that some will be virtual and others will take place in person.

There were no further questions and this meeting ended at 8.15pm.

Categories: Wealden