Blackfriars – can Battle cope with pressures 200 new-built homes will create

Plans that would see 200 new houses built at Blackfriars in Battle, while welcomed by Rother District Council (RDC), have not gone down well with a number of the town’s residents.

The Blackfriars site has been allocated for development for several years but now money from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund has been made available to help to deliver a new road, making it possible to develop the site for what the council says is, “desperately needed housing in the district”.

Councillor Terry Byrne, the council’s portfolio holder for housing, said last year: “It’s extremely important this much-needed development positively contributes to the local identity and character of the area while respecting the neighbouring woodland.

“The Covid-19 crisis meant we are unable to share the plans with the public in the way we had planned.”

RDC said architects are designing high quality low-carbon homes which maximise the use of solar energy and renewable energy technologies. The scheme will include green spaces, while landscaped spaces will promote ‘ecological biodiversity’, the council says.

The proposal, however is not without its critics, one local resident we spoke to worries about the lack of public consultation that has gone on and at the low levels of awareness among local people about just what is being proposed.

Battle High Street. Can the town’s infrastructure cope with an additional 1,300 car journeys a day that the Blackfriars development would generate?

Rob Dyer accepts that his home is adjacent to the proposed development site but says that’s not why he is opposed to the scheme: “When we bought this house we knew that one day that land would be developed but there was no detail, it’s the detail, and specifically the scale, of what is being proposed that is a concern,” he says.

Mr Dyer believes that because it has been impossible to hold public meetings in the last year a scheme of the size proposed at Blackfriars should have been delayed until proper local consultation could have taken place, he says the whole thing feels as if it is being “rushed through”.

At the root of Mr Dyer’s concerns is whether Battle, as a town, can cope with the pressure more than 200 new homes will place on its resources. He points out that planners project an additional 1,300 car journeys every day and he questions if the local schools and medical services can cope.

“The schools have said they will make the extra capacity but they will do that by reducing the size of their catchment areas,” he says.

“I simply believe that battle just does not have the infrastructure to cope with this number of new homes. Doctors say they will absorb the additional number of people but will that mean waiting times for appointments extending even further?” asks Mr Dyer.

He’s concerned too about congestion caused by additional traffic and about road safety. The nearest shop to the new development will be the Tesco Express on Battle Hill, a road which those going to the shop on foot would have to cross and a road where it’s not possible to put in a pedestrian crossing because the road is narrow, there is no pavement on one side of it and local people believe that Esso, the owners of the site, would not allow it – there have already been fatal accidents involving pedestrians in that area, says Mr Dyer.

The proposed Blackfriars site.

RDC has acquired other land around the Blackfriars site so there is also concern that the development being considered next week is just the start of something bigger. 

Mr Dyer is not alone in being worried about the impact the proposed development at Blackfriars could have.
In a submission to the council Mike Cogswell says: “I am extremely concerned that these proposals are coming forward in their current form and object to this… application for a major development which is not supported by the necessary infrastructure, which will adversely impact on the residents living nearby and have a serious environmental impact.

“RDC also has a blatant conflict of interest in this project. It is acting both as aggressive landowner/developer… to drive forward its property investment strategy, while purporting to exercise impartial planning scrutiny and oversight on the same very highly contentious scheme through the planning process. It stretches credulity to believe that the Planning Committee will question or overturn a corporate strategy which (presumably) its members helped formulate and RDC has corporately invested so much in.”

Like Mr Dyer he feels consultation on the scheme has been poor: “While most local residents will already be aware that Blackfriars is a potential development site, there is evidence that, despite a long gestation period – which might have lulled residents into a false sense of security – they may not have had adequate time or information to assimilate and respond adequately to these specific proposals which have come forward relatively quickly… during the lockdown restrictions.”

Margaret Kendall says: “This will destroy an area of natural beauty which I thought could not be built on. The land is unsuitable for this type of construction… Infrastructure will not be able to support this.”
“(There is) No mention of pedestrian safety along Harrier Lane with increased traffic. While I appreciate the need, this land is not suitable, the plan not in keeping with the historic town we live in.”

What are your thoughts about the development planned for Blackfriars? Tell us in the comment section below.

6 thoughts on “Blackfriars – can Battle cope with pressures 200 new-built homes will create

  1. The only way to attempt to stop this development is to vote NO when it comes to the Battle Neighbourhood Plan. This plan developed by Battle Town Council. If this plan goes ahead there will be some 600 houses built in our town, and there is no way the infrastructure can cope. It is interesting that infrastructure is not allowed to be considered in this plan. A vote NO is the only answer.

  2. I broadly agree with the statements in the article. The schools and doctors surgeries will be under more pressure. With no extra resources.

  3. From the overall perspective of the town we are potentially looking at an increase of up to 1000 in our population with this development and the very dense Lily Bank development now started on London Road. If our excellent schools and medical services say and truly believe they can absorb this then we have to believe them. If the new residents shop locally then we have benefits for our local businesses but the thing that really needs containing is the traffic, whether rat-running through the development or clogging up the high street with all the rest of what already passes through that narrow strip. I would like to see no stone unturned to encourage people to walk or cycle locally and use their cars for out of town longer trips – and this would also contribute to the green credentials of the scheme. I guess may parents for example might consider Blackfriars to be borderline at best for walking small children to Battle and Langton School or for olderchildren to walk to Claverham – which makes the increased traffic a very strong likelihood.

  4. Fully agree with all the above. Also am extremely worried about the amount of water that will run off this site if developed due to the steep gradient. Access roads from both the top and bottom of the site are not equipped for the volume of cars. The stretch of A21 at the end of Marley Lane already has a dreadful accident record.

  5. An historic town like Battle is being totally spoilt. The increase in traffic will be horrendous. There are no jobs in this town and the infrastructure just can’t support this size of increase. The schools are already overloaded and so too the doctors surgeries and dental.practices. Not always easy now to get appointments or even on the register of a NHS dentist. In terms of the actual site -, lots of wildlife are having their habitat destroyed, there are already water drainage problems and Harrier Lane will become a race track for cars that have had to decrease their speed through the housing development. This is very dangerous for pedestrians as there are no footpaths along that stretch of road. Many people walk their dogs on that site and this will severely restrict their options for a walk in the countryside. It is depressing that every green area seems to be allocated for housing – despite it being an area of outstanding natural beauty – does this not mean anything any more. There are so many reasons why this is a disastrous project.

  6. This beautiful town is already spoilt by the heavy load of traffic at the moment, more would be impossible.

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