Hastings Borough Council gave approval, at the Cabinet Meeting on 5th November, to the draft Development Management Plan, which would give protection from development to the greater part of ‘Speckled Wood’ (see plan).
Ore Community Land Trust broadly welcomes these proposals. This would pave the way for Ore Community Land Trust to acquire land in Speckled Wood to create a Community Woodland.
The Trust was set up for this purpose and to raise awareness of the value of the woodland valley and campaign to save it from being destroyed by development.
Two small development sites are proposed as shown on the plan and the area of land next to Victoria Avenue, which has planning permission for 51 homes, is excluded.
Many years ago (1993 or earlier) a very large part of Speckled Wood was designated for housing development and this is contained in the current Hastings Borough Plan, which will be superseded by the new Plan in 2014.
This is a major achievement for the many years of campaigning by local groups and residents, with support from local councillors, and would make it possible to create a Community Woodland for Ore Village and the Upper Ore Valley. It would make it much easier for Ore Community Land Trust to acquire the woodland for this purpose, when the Hastings Local Plan is finally adopted in about 15 months time.
However we recognise that the campaign, to try to preserve the whole of Speckled Wood, will need to continue, particularly to try to get the planning permission for the development site next to Victoria Avenue overturned, when it comes up for renewal. We also realise that the Local Plan process has still to go through a Public Enquiry in 2013 and there will be opposition from some landowners to the proposals to change the status of areas of the land from that of development potential to protected urban green space.
We expect the developer who has bought up many of the plots of land nearest to Old London Road to put in a planning application this autumn or early next year, before the new Local Plan is finally adopted.
Clearly we will need to oppose this with all our resources and with strong community support and we will want to demonstrate how much support there is in the area for saving Speckled Wood from development. Consequently the months ahead will require a robust, careful and well-reasoned approach to ensure that the integrity of the woodland can be given the protection that it needs.