Council right to reject build plans

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I FEEL delighted for the residents of Fern Road, St Leonards that the plan to build 14 new homes there has been rejected. (Observer, September 16).

The plan was clearly an overdevelopment but there have been many overdevelopments which have been allowed to proceed - as would this one if the attitude of Councillor Michael Wincott had prevailed.

Like so many before him, Councillor Wincott would have allowed the development not because he thought it was best for the town, but because of his feeling that, if the refusal decision went to appeal, the council would lose. That never was, and never should be, the right approach.

Last October you reported the chairman of the planning committee as saying: “At the end of the day the council is liable if it turns down an application without a good reason and it gets overturned on appeal. The planning law is the planning law.”

And so an application was allowed to build 44 homes on the former college site on St Saviours Road in St Leonards, despite vociferous opposition from local residents and local councillors, to whom it appeared glaringly obvious that all the developers had sought to do was to extract as much profit as they could from the land, and that the scheme was going to blight the area, not enhance it.

Why couldn’t the chairman see that there was good reason to refuse the development? It’s a question of vision, and courage.

A Government guide says that the success of the planning system depends on ‘establishing and taking forward a clear spatial vision for the area based on the sustainable community strategy, and on effective dialogue between applicants, local authority, local people and other interests to help define and realise the vision’.

Having the vision is key, but it’s no good having a vision for the town if you don’t have the resolve to achieve it.

Our Local Plan is aspirational. Why can’t our councillors live up to it? If a proposed development doesn’t meet our aspirations let them stand up and say so. For far too long our councillors have been giving us second best.

They have demonstrated a lack of courage and a lack of vision and, with notable exceptions, they continue to let us down.

So three cheers then for Councillor Matthew Beaver, who when considering the Fern Road proposal, was firm in his view: “It is an overdevelopment of the site in my opinion. We should not as members be afraid to turn things down for fear of appeal.”

Here is an elected representative who knows that his first duty is not to the developers, but to us. If only there were more like him.

ROBERT SORRENTI

St Vincents Road

St Leonards