Developers East Sussex minutes: 9 January 2024

Meeting details

Date: 9 January 2024

Time: 2pm

Location: Microsoft Teams

See the list of attendees and apologies for this meeting.

1. Welcome and introductions

1.1  JB welcomed the group to the meeting, in particular DF who joins as an observer from the Surrey Development Forum.

2. Review of previous minutes, 14 November 2023

2.1  JB confirmed that all of the actions from the previous DES meeting have been completed or are in progress.

2.2  ND flagged a minor correction to the previous minutes (paragraph 6.2, the Lewes Local Plan consultation is at Regulation 18 stage rather than Regulation 19), which DE Otherwise the minutes were approved as an accurate record of the meeting.

3. Market conditions / open forum

3.1  The group discussed the current state of the market and the ongoing issues around the supply of materials, labour shortages, price increases etc.

3.2  The sales market, which had slowed in recent months and was expected to remain flat until the new year, saw an unexpected lift in December/January, with an increase in interest. The second hand market is also looking more dynamic, and shared ownership remains very popular with continued high sales.

3.3  In terms of build, housing developers are faring well (largely due to lowering their forecasts), but some subcontractors may suffer as there are signs of cashflow distress as volumes have decreased. For instance, while the overall supply of materials is fine at the moment, brick supplies may again be impacted as local suppliers close.

3.4  The commercial market is still proving difficult, with good enquiries coming through but in much lower volumes. There is still some demand for warehousing/manufacturing sites, but it is not affordable to build them in areas where rents are low. Retail, in particular larger retail, is still struggling.

4. Affordable Housing update

4.1  The group discussed the affordable housing market, and agreed it’s showing no discernible change as yet.

4.2  SR noted some recent difficulties with sites across Rother district and their S106 requirements, with Registered Providers (RPs) showing low/no interest. SHv flagged similar problems, but noted that new RPs do seem to be forming, which may help.

4.3  BHr advised that the above has been discussed at recent Affordable Housing Roundtable events, most recently held on 30 November 2023. One point the group is lobbying for is to actually declare market failure in the S106 process, as currently (and increasingly) annual newbuild targets are simply being reduced. The roundtable group is also proposing that Homes England (HE) be given the ability to allow grant to be deployed on S106 (e.g. if an organisation overperforms by a given figure, they can qualify for a grant). Another roundtable event will be scheduled soon, and all of the intelligence and learning is being fed to both HE and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), to hopefully influence policy.

4.4  BHr advised that rent cap figures for 2024/25 are broadly in line with inflation; at the end of last week DLUHC confirmed via its website that social housing providers in England will be able to raise rents by up to 7.7% next year. However, it is a one-year commitment only, which does not give much confidence to the RP market.

4.5  JPo added that new indicative Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates have just been announced by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which may have a small impact on the viability of affordable housing.

5. East Sussex Housing Strategy

5.1  MC provided a progress update on the development of the place-based Housing Strategy for East Sussex, and delivered a presentation with an overview of the evidence base to date.

5.2  The next steps are to refine the evidence base, to which DES colleagues are encouraged to contribute, and to hold a Housing Conference during May 2024, which DES colleagues are invited to attend.

5.3  BHr reminded the group that he sits on the working group for the strategy as the DES representative, so if anyone has any comments/feedback they can get in touch with him, or contact MC directly.

6. DES priorities for 2024/25

6.1  JB suggested that this item be rolled over to a future meeting to allow more time for a proper discussion. In the meantime DES colleagues are asked to give it some thought, and are welcome to provide suggestions directly to JB at any time.

7. DLUHC / Homes England engagement

7.1  JB reminded the group that a monthly call is held with DLUHC officials, which is extremely useful for the sharing of information, so please get in contact with any issues or particular points to raise.

8. Local Planning Authority (LPA) updates

8.1  Officers provided updates on the progression of their Borough and District Councils’ Local Plans. Rother DC and Wealden DC are working to a similar timeline, with their Local Plans to be presented to their respective Committee/Council meetings during February, after which wider public consultation will take place from March/April 2024. The Lewes Local Plan is currently at consultation stage, with in-person events taking place and webinars available on the Lewes DC portal. Hastings BC is expecting to open a consultation on its Local Plan during Q2 of 2024/25. Eastbourne BC is about to relaunch work on its Local Plan, aiming to reach a Regulation 19 Plan by the end of the year.

8.2  SR advised that the Let’s Talk Wealden engagement hub now includes a dedicated Planning Hub section, launched just before Christmas.

8.3  KE advised that Rother DC will be launching a new pre-application structure soon, plus the validation checking process will be updated.

8.4  GQ reminded the group that a Housing Development event is being held this week, 10am Thursday 11 January 2024, at Manor Barn in Bexhill.

9. AOB (any other business)

9.1  DES colleagues agreed that the current meeting cycle (bimonthly virtual meetings) should continue through 2024/25. The full meeting schedule will be included in all meeting agendas, so colleagues are asked to make a note of the dates in their diaries. DE will circulate the calendar appointments with dial-in details ahead of each individual DES meeting, as usual.

Summary of actions


Attendees and apologies


  • BB, Beverley Bayliss, East Sussex CC
  • BHk, Ben Hook, Rother DC
  • BHr, Brian Horton, SELEP
  • BL, Brandon Lewis, Horton Strategic
  • CBe, Chris Bending, Wealden DC
  • CBr, Chris Broome, Sea Change Sussex
  • CM, Chris Moore, Bellway Homes
  • DE, Dave Evans, East Sussex CC
  • DF, Duncan Flynn, Surrey Development Forum
  • DM, David Maher, Dandara
  • ED, Emma Davies, Redloft
  • ESh, Edward Sheath, East Sussex CC
  • ESt, Edgar Starmes, Taylor Wimpey
  • GF, Gemma Forshaw, Wealden DC
  • GQ, Graeme Quinnell, Rother DC
  • HF, Hayley Frankham, Wealden DC
  • IS, Ian Scott, Town & Country Housing Group
  • JB, Jonathan Buckwell, (CHAIR) DHA Planning
  • JH, Josh Hemmings, Homes England
  • JMe, Joshua Mellor, Stantec
  • JMu, Joan Mumo, L and G Affordable Homes
  • JPo, Joe Powell, Rother DC
  • JPy, Jeff Pyrah, Rother DC
  • JR, Jason Roberts, Wealden DC
  • JS, John Stebbings, Thakeham
  • KE, Kemi Erifevieme, Rother DC
  • MB, Mark Bewsey, DHA Planning
  • MC, Michael Courts, East Sussex CC
  • NC, Neil Collins, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
  • ND, Nadeem Din, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
  • PC, Peter Coldbreath, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership
  • PF, Paul Flatt, Homes England
  • PN, Phillip Naylor, RH Partnership Architects
  • SHn, Susan Hanson, Hastings BC
  • SHv, Sean Havis, Barratt David Wilson Homes
  • SR, Stacey Robins, Wealden DC
  • TH, Tim Hardwicke, Stiles Harold Williams Partnership


  • EP, Erica Peck, Rydon Homes
  • GH, Gary Hall, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
  • MD, Marc Dorfman, Eastbourne BC / Lewes DC
  • NF, Nick Fenton, Nick Fenton Associates
  • RT, Ryan Trodden, DLUHC
  • RW, Richard White, Southern Housing