Eyesore ultimatum at Undercliff

Unfinished development at Undercliff, St Leonards.  Stuart Rumsey and Christine Francis
Unfinished development at Undercliff, St Leonards. Stuart Rumsey and Christine Francis
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RESIDENTS are up-in-arms over an eyesore building site that has still not been completed almost 50 years after planning permission was first granted.

The current owners of land at Undercliff have now been told by the council to stabilise and make it safe or face a hefty fine.

The long and chequered history of the site stretches back to February 1966 when the original developer was first given permission to build 16 one-bed apartments and 19 garages.

Work started but in 1972 a landslide brought the gardens from nearby Courtlands Flats crashing down onto the site.

As two retaining walls and some concrete slabbing had been erected it was deemed the project had begun.

Under UK planning law as long as building work is started within three years developers can take as long as they want to complete the task.

After several changes of ownership, current develop Bexhill-based API Undercliff Ltd applied to extend the project and build 22 flats in 2008 but were turned down.

They returned to building the original plan and put in the car parking and first storey but a second major landslide caused the site to be abandoned. Since then squatters occupied part of the site and it has been left as an eyesore to the dismay of local residents.

Now the council has issued API with an ultimatum to make the land safe. If they fail to act they could be fined £100 a day in costs for every day it is neglected.

Council engineers have had to carry out constant safety monitoring of the land surrounding it and have stepped in several times to shore up the unstable areas and make the building secure.

Officers have liaised with geotechnical engineers and steel workers to install temporary metal frames, supporting the rear wall and unstable nearby cliff.

Local architect and resident Stuart Rumsey said: “In my 40 year career I have never come across such a poorly planned building project.

“Plans that were drawn up in he 60s are just not appropriate 50 years later. Who wants to stare at a brick wall out of their window or be overlooked in their property?

“The law needs to be changed. It is not right for developers to start a job 50 years ago and never finish it.

“There was no common sense used here. We don’t need any more flats in this area. We need family housing.

“The site could be made safe and stable but at quite a cost.”

Christine Francis, who lives in nearby West Ascent, is the secretary of the Burton St Leonards Society.

She said: “This site is not fair to local residents as it is unsightly and unsafe. It is in a conservation area and we want the gardens restored. We also want a change in planning law to stop this happening again.”

Councillor Peter Chowney, lead member for regeneration, said: “We have spent money on this site.

“We really had no choice when it comes to residents’ safety and will be looking at how to recover these costs.

“I understand that times are tough but this site has been neglected for far too long.”