Business leaders in the Uckfield area battling to overturn the Ashdown Forest 7km development rule believe they are making headway.

Members of the town’s Chamber of Commerce were told their case had received a sympathetic hearing from Government Planning Minister, Nick Boles.

And, the team planning a Judicial Review in the courts are said to be “quietly confident”.

Chamber president David Marshall told a meeting at Barnsgate Manor Vineyard, on Thursday, July 25, that he was part of a delegation which saw Mr Boles along with Wealden MP, Charles Hendry.

Mr Marshall said they believed the 7km restriction, imposed as part of the Local Plan process in the Wealden District Council area, will “result in a severe reduction in development and consequently affect local business and employment opportunities, now and in the future”.

He added: “Over a period of time, our view is that this will affect most people in the area and not just developers and builders.

“We had about 40 minutes with the Minister and felt that we had a good hearing.”

The delegation also included Chamber member Chris Lawson with three members from the Crowborough Chamber.

Mr Lawson said the Minister had told them that Wealden was, as far as he knew, the most “extreme case” of how this environmental rule was being implemented in the whole country.

He said he would do what he could to persuade the council to take a more realistic and pragmatic approach.

Mr Lawson said the Ashdown Forest Economic Development Partnership, which has launched the Judicial Review, was quietly confident of success.

He asked business who had fallen foul of the 7km rule and was prepared to be identified to let the Chamber know.

Adrian Corbin said the second Uckfield Business Awards would be held on November 6 next year.

Many of the 15 categories are already sponsored but four or five classes remain available. He said they were hoping the event MC would be a nationally known television personality.

Peter Roe gave Chamber members advance notice that a food bank to help people in crisis was to be established in Uckfield.

The meeting approved applications for membership from Jane Bolton Garden Design of Newick, Oldfield Smith, commercial agents and surveyors; and Uckfield Festival Association.

A presentation was given by David Matthews (Matthews Training) and Fiona Haywood from Café Style Speed Training.

Darren Butcher of Barnsgate Manor Vineyard outlined plans for the coming year and took the opportunity to say a public thank you to staff.

About 100 Chambers members attended the meeting.

The next meeting will be on September 24 at Buxted Park Hotel.