East Sussex Rural Partnership: ”Building the Future” 19th January 2017

The final meeting of the East Sussex Rural Partnership”s three-part series took place at Barcombe Village Hall and focused on the current status and future role of planning in the rural parts of East Sussex. Approximately 40 representatives of organisations and communities attended.

Entitled ”Building for the Future”, the event focused on providing an overview of the issues affecting planning, housing delivery and infrastructure in rural areas. Jeremy Leggett , CEO of Action in rural Sussex, provided a short history of the mechanisms that have provided communities with an opportunity to shape their locality, along with a summary of those currently in operation. The overriding message being that there are opportunities for local people to guide what is delivered and the form it takes. Whilst these aren”t without limitations, they do allow meaningful contributions.

4 sets of guest speakers each provided a short presentation as a means of contextualising the workshop session which followed. The first speakers were Will Anderson, an architect from Rabble Place Design Studio and Kia Trainor, Director of CPRE Sussex, who provided an overview of the ”Making Places” project which engaged 7 communities in Sussex to explore how their sense of place could be used to guide local design.

The use of Community Land Trusts as a means of delivering local assets, including affordable housing, was provided by Tom Warder, the manager of the Sussex Community Land Trust umbrella.  This explained how communities could purchase, develop and manage their own assets on a sustainable basis for the benefit of local people. Examples were provided of communities in Sussex where this process was already underway.

Claire Tester, the Planning Advisor from the High Weald AONB Unit, provided an informative overview of the relationship between development and the environment. This focused on work undertaken by the AONB Unit. Two components of this are a Design Guide and a Sustainable Housing Study, both of which explore how development may be delivered in a form sensitive to and reflective of the local landscape.

The final presentation of the day was provided by Faustina Bayo, a community development worker who has extensive experience in delivering community-led plans (Parish Plans). The main emphasis being to explain their function when compared to other forms of community planning such as Neighbourhood Planning. This identified the holistic nature of the approach (not solely development focused), which allows communities to consider both their needs and aspirations in a joined up fashion.

The final session involved attendees selecting from 1 of the 4 themed workshop sessions, each of which was led by one of the speakers. Attendees were asked to identify actions which they were undertake as a result of their participation. These are summarised below:

1. Architecture and design (Will Anderson & Kia Trainor)

  • Need to identify and explore examples of rural modern housing so that Neighbourhood Plan groups have something to work from (Community);
  • Lifetime of materials needs documenting as Neighbourhood Plan groups don”t know how long these will last (Community);

2. Community Land Trusts (Tom Warder)

  • A need to explore how the Parish Council in a community that has completed its Neighbourhood Plan could and should begin to work with developers (Community);
  • Consider whether affordable housing is really required in the community and whether CLTs represent the best form of delivery (Community);

3. Neighbourhood Planning (Claire Tester)

  • Taking away what not to do (common pitfalls) in relation to the development of a Neighbourhood Plan (Community);
  • Neighbourhood Plans are becoming much more complex and developers may be confrontational, so always seek professional planning advice (Community);

4. Community led planning (Faustina Bayo)

  • Increasing awareness of local plans in the areas in which we work (Service provider);
  • Promote the idea of a CLP in our community (using what we already have in the Neighbourhood Plan if we sensibly can) (Community);
  • Establish what libraries can do to support providers/communities (Service provider).

“Supporting rural communities in Sussex to be vibrant and diverse places in which to live and work.”