CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating winning an epic, three-year-long battle to stop developers building more than 150 homes on the former Hastings College site.
Dozens of campaigners from the Save the Archery Ground group packed into the Town Hall main chamber on Wednesday night for the news they had longed to hear.
Cheers of delight echoed around the room as planning committee chairman Godfrey Daniel formally turned down the bid which attracted 618 letters of complaint and four petitions against it - among the highest numbers ever received.
Speaking outside the meeting, STAG spokeswoman Trish Evans, said: “We are absolutely delighted.
“The committee did a good job and thankfully they listened to us.”
Committee members took almost two hours to listen to the debate and finally make their minds up.
It began with an impassioned speech by Labour campaigner James Bacon who lives in the ward.
The 22-year-old told how the scheme would cause “irreversible damage to one of the most historic parts of St Leonards.”
“It will not meet current or emerging levels of sustainability and there’s a good chance Gladedales homes will be substandard before they are even built,” he said.
Councillor Michael Wincott asked Gladedale representative Philip Villars in his opinion why English Heritage said last month they could not support the plans.
Mr Villars replied: “It’s not clear to me why they have concerns.”
During the debate, cllr Peter Pragnell said: “What’s there now is hideous.
“People were looking for a high quality proposal - I’m afraid this isn’t it. I don’t think it looks good enough or meets the test of enhancing or preserving an area.
“The design is not right for where it is.”
Councillor Richard Street then proposed a motion to refuse the application which was seconded by cllr Pragnell.
It called for permission to be refused on grounds that it was: not in sympathy with the appearance of the area, did not maintain or enhance the visual quality of the surrounding area, would not preserve or enhance the buildings or street scene, does not display high quality distinctive architecture, does not make a positive contribution to the quality of historic buildings and is of poor design and does not enhance the significance of heritage assets.
Cllr Daniel said: “There are many people who are in need of one bedroom housing. I worry for the future. If this is turned down we might regret it.”
However, fellow Labour councillors did not agree and joined forces with their Conservative colleagues in a display of solidarity.
Trish Evans added: “We wanted Gladedale to redesign it. We have to be able to converse with them.
“The character of the site had not been taken into account. It was a very important decision in terms of its regeneration.
“It is a prime example of a Regency town and the first new town ever built.
“We want cultural tourists to keep coming to Burton St Leonards because there is no place like it in the country.”