Residents step up campaign against convent proposals

Former convent site, Magdalen road, St Leonards.
Former convent site, Magdalen road, St Leonards.

A GROUP of residents is calling for those who disagree with proposals for new housing at the former Magdalen Road convent site to make their views known now.

They fear that not enough research has been put into other options for the development of the site which contains two listed buildings, and are keen for the application made by Tunbridge Wells company Enplan, to be rejected.

Hastings Borough Council is currently consulting on an amended version of the application before it goes before the planning committee, and the deadline for comments to be submitted is Friday, April 13.

The main change to the application which was originally submitted in 2010, is a reduction in the number of new housing units at the site from 197 to 167.

New homes would be built in the convent grounds, along with restoring and converting the Gothic building, gate lodge, priory and former convent building.

The Edwardian East Wing would be demolished.

The protest group, which includes Maureen Jarvis, of Magdalen Road, came out against the application when it was first made in 2010, and petitions with a total of around 1,000 signatures have since been entered.

They still have serious concerns about the development including the potential impact of an increase in the local population, lack of exploration of other options for the site, and lack of scrutiny of the application.

Mrs Jarvis said: “The amended proposals would still have a seriously detrimental impact on both the historic and natural environment.

“The convent and its grounds are the major element of the conservation area. Tree loss and the design and scale of the major new development in the Convent grounds would be seriously detrimental to the character and appearance of the conservation area.”

They also feel that there has been too much confusion over whether or not the plans were submitted as an “enabling development”, which is an English Heritage term defined as a development contrary to established planning policy but occasionally permitted because it brings public benefits that would outweigh any harm caused.

There are a specific series of guidelines that should be followed in this instance.

According to the council, the application is not being considered as an official “enabling development”.

Another concern is that no social housing is contained in the current proposals, with the developers arguing that this would not be viable.

A spokesperson for Hastings Borough Council said: “The planning board is a non-political, cross-party committee and judges each application on its own merit. Planning committees are, of course, open to the public and are held in the town hall every month. We cannot comment on applications ahead of committee meetings.”

The group of residents plans to lobby to have the site designated as Private Open Space under the New Local Plan, which is currently under consultation.

Development would then be prevented that would prejudice the open nature of the area.

To comment on the application visit www.hastings.gov.uk/environment_planning/planning/view_planning_apps/case_detail/?id=97309.

For more information on the Convent Campaign, contact Kat by email on katdogleeryan@yahoo.com.

Enplan decline to comment.