Rother DC Housing Company makes significant progress to deliver its first housing scheme in the historic town

A housing development in the heart of Battle in East Sussex has been given the green light by Rother District Council’s Planning Committee – paving the way for Rother DC Housing Company (RDCHC) to deliver its first major house building project at the town’s Blackfriars site.

The project marks a major leap forward for RDCHC, a company established by Rother District Council in 2020 to accelerate the delivery of high quality and energy efficient housing throughout the district.

On 15 February 2024, and following public consultation, RDCHC received unanimous approval for a Section 73 amendment on previous planning consent for the construction of 200 highly sustainable, low carbon homes within the 16 hectare site.

To provide the maximum opportunity to address local housing need, the revised scheme incorporates a greater mix of 2, 3 and 4-bedroom houses and reduces the number of apartments. However, faced with a challenging financial backdrop of high inflation and increased project costs, and the necessity to avoid financial risk/loss, RDCHC is no longer required to deliver a proportion of affordable housing under Section 106.

Despite this, RCDHC remains committed to bringing affordable housing to the scheme further down the line where scheme finances allow. Conversations with a preferred registered provider will continue on this basis.

Richard Thomas, Chair of the Board, Rother DC Housing Company said: “This welcome decision marks a major milestone for RCDHC that will unlock 200 much needed, high quality new homes in the district.

“It recognises the project’s absolute focus on quality and cost efficiency and, although we are saddened by the immediate loss of affordable housing, the company favours a scheme that includes considerable affordable housing, both rented and shared ownership, for local people. However, this solely depends on the financial performance of the scheme once the retender is completed.

“For now, we look forward to appointing a building contractor and getting spades in the ground on site later this year.”

The Blackfriars’s development maintains a commitment to contribute towards creating a carbon zero district. All 200 properties will feature air source heat pumps and will meet or potentially exceed new Part L Building Regulations to ensure householders benefit from energy efficient homes which are cheaper to run. Electric vehicle charging points within the site will support the transition away from diesel and petrol vehicles.

In addition, general enhancements to the scheme’s layout seek to improve the community ‘feel’ of the project and embrace public open spaces and greenery. Divided into three zones, the development draws inspiration from the ‘High Weald Design Guide’1 through the use of architectural features, local building materials such as slate, red brick and clay tiles, and landscaping with hedgerows and cottage-style borders.

RDCHC has invited local contractors to tender for delivery of the revised scheme to commence work onsite later this year. This follows a mutual and amicable decision, to part ways with the previous housing contractor, Wates.

Meanwhile, Breheny, is progressing the Council’s major infrastructure project onsite, to include construction of a new spine road funded by Homes England. Completion of the first homes is scheduled for mid-2026 with the final homes completing during 2027.