Plans for extensive housebuilding schemes are expected to be considered by Wealden District Council, with a view to developing land in the Uckfield area. It has been recently reported that proposals for “new large-scale housing developments” are likely to be submitted to the council. These proposals have been mooted for months, but now appear much closer to coming to fruition.
Although concrete details are not yet known about the nature and the location of these housebuilding schemes, there are reports that puts forward three sites in the area that could be eyed up by developers: Bird-in-Eye Hill, Downlands Farm, and Sussex Horse Rescue land. Downlands Farm is one site that has been courted by housing developers in the past, but the council rejected those plans based on environmental concerns and accessibility issues.
Naturally, many Uckfield residents may be apprehensive of the burden that future developments could place on the town’s road system, both in terms of the shorter-term increase of construction traffic and the longer-term impact of more cars on roads. Given that Uckfield is a one-road town, it is inevitable that worries about traffic management will be a significant part of Wealden District Council’s decision to approve or reject any housebuilding proposals.
However, it is clear that Uckfield and its surrounding area have been viewed as a location that is ripe for housebuilding developments, as evidenced the ongoing construction of 1000 homes at Ridgewood Farm. More Radio reported on a cabinet meeting for Wealden District Council in June, where Cllr Paul Sparks (Uckfield East) declared his disapproval that only 346 of the 1960 homes built in Wealden since 2016 have been priced up in an affordable bracket.
The councillor then stated that the Ridgewood Farm development was supposed to deliver 350 affordable homes in its 1000 new properties, but that this number had since been reduced to 150. These observations from Cllr Sparks justifiably raise questions about the sustainability of undergoing such large-scale housebuilding projects in Uckfield when many buyers could be priced out of purchasing property.
On a national scale, property experts forecast a difficult time for the housing market over the next few years. A Reuters poll of industry experts revealed an expectation that prices in the UK could drop by around 5% by the end of the year. That same poll indicates that prices should then recover, rising by 1.5% in 2021 and 3.5% in 2022, but there is significant uncertainty about how the property market’s decline will affect buyers.
The Bank of England’s decision to reduce its base rate to 0.1% on March 19th could potentially hand the impetus back to buyers, as that smaller base rate may drive down mortgage rates in the long term. It will be interesting to monitor how mortgage rates fluctuate in the coming months, with the Trussle mortgage comparison service keeping track of how the industry adapts its prices in a challenging time for the UK economy and the housing market. As remortgaging becomes a more attractive option, some buyers may lose their motivation to move in the first place.
Any new development in Uckfield will have all of these issues to contend with over the coming years. If any schemes are approved by the council, then current Uckfield residents will be hoping that traffic concerns and environmental factors will be comprehensively taken into account. Prospective Uckfield residents may be hoping that new developments bring an appropriate amount of affordable housing.