Planning in Winchelsea
Planning is a hot potato in most communities. In Winchelsea, it is often highly contentious.
Winchelsea is an attractive village with a precious heritage, including a considerable number of ancient monuments and listed buildings, many dating from its foundation in 1288. It also has the highest concentration of medieval wine cellars in the country. In addition, Winchelsea retains its medieval landscape setting: it still sits on a hill surrounded by largely empty marshland. For these reasons, the village is a Conservation Area, much of it is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and it has been officially identified as being of ‘international’ historic importance.
In addition to the quality of its built and natural environment, there is a high quality of life. The size and history of Winchelsea have encouraged a strong sense of community and the compactness of the village fosters intense social interaction. Civic pride and social cohesion have allowed Winchelsea to preserve services such as its village shop and post office, which add to its attraction as a place in which to live.
Because of its many qualities, a lot of people would like to live in Winchelsea. However, there is a limited housing stock (about 280 dwellings), so there is constant pressure to infill spaces and to develop the periphery of the village.
Moreover, the high cost of housing in the village and the lack of affordable housing means that the population is older than average. This accentuates the natural cycle of improvement and deterioration in the housing stock. As people age, they tend to scale back maintenance of their properties and cease to upgrade domestic facilities. Properties tend to deteriorate or become ‘dated’. When the property is sold, the new owners typically undertake extensive refurbishment and modernisation. Such major changes can create concerns about conservation.
Then, there is the intrusion of modern life in the form of mobile phone masts, road “improvements” and the proliferation of traffic signs and advertisements.
Many residents of Winchelsea feel that they have a duty to conserve the village for future generations. However, one person’s ‘conservation’ can be another’s ‘interference’ and there is therefore considerable potential for conflict.