College site plans: battle lines drawn

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FURIOUS residents are drawing up the battle lines as their fight against plans to redevelop the old college site enters its end game.

Gladedale has re-submitted proposals to convert the listed gatehouse into 27 new flats and build a further 136 homes at the site in Archery Road, St Leonards, much to the dismay of the Save the Archery Ground (STAG) protest group.

It has called a public meeting for Monday, June 6, to rally opposition to the scheme, which is likely to finally come before the Hastings Borough Council (HBC) planning committee in July.

Gladedale bought the site after Hastings College moved to its new Station Plaza site and planning permission was first sought back in August 2009.

STAG had hoped Gladedale might amend the plans in light of the public backlash but spokesman Trish Evans condemned the new blueprints as ‘virtually unchanged’.

She said: “If this goes through it will be the death knell of conservation in Hastings. This area of outstanding historic importance will be lost forever.”

Although the group does not oppose the redevelopment of the site in principle, its members are calling for something which fits in with the Regency architecture of Burton St Leonards and maintains green open space in the area.

“The scheme is simply not good enough,” Ms Evans said.

HBC planning officers have not yet formally accepted the new plans and is currently negotiating with Gladedale before launching a four-week public consultation, but the Observer understands the officers are not requesting major changes.

A spokesman for the developers said: “We have worked closely with local authority design and conservation, planning, arboricultural and ecological officers over a period of four years during the evolution of this high quality scheme.

“Over the past 18 months we have undertaken substantial changes to the submitted application in response to comments received and have now reached a stage where the local authority officers are supportive of the proposals.

“The revised application will rejuvenate this redundant college site by removing the unattractive utilitarian buildings, currently a target for vandalism and anti-social behaviour, and preserve the Grade II listed property on site which is currently at risk.”

But Iain Exley, a local architect who has been working with STAG, slammed the current designs. “Gladedale have lost the plot and totally ignored the background and history of this area,” he said.

“The whole thing about Georgian architecture is that it was based on the Greek principles which focus on nature. These designs are like a fortress with the central open space mainly taken up by car parking. This area is a jewel in the town’s crown and James Burton is an unbelievably important architect. This would destroy the area.”

Mr Exley will be among the speakers at the meeting on June 6, which is at the Assembly Rooms, East Ascent, St Leonards, from 6pm to 8pm. All are welcome.