Calls for changes to planning rules

COUNCILLORS and campaigners have called for sweeping reforms of the planning rules after a “bizarre” row last week.

At Wednesday’s meeting (March 2) of the Hastings Borough Council (HBC) planning committee, the vast majority of councillors wanted to tun down an application finalising the details for a development of new houses off Amherst Road.

But despite a 50-minute discussion, which centred on the safety issues of the development’s access road, they could find no reason in the rules to refuse it. It was agreed by a majority vote with Cllr Michael Wincott pointing out: “When you talk to people about planning this is what they hate the most.”

Concerns had been raised by Cllr Dominic Sabetian that the fast moving traffic on Amherst Road would cause issues around the access road to the new houses, which didn’t have a pavement on it either. “This is substandard and unacceptable from a highways point of view,” he said.

But Tim Cookson, HBC head of planning said there were no legal grounds to turn down the application and said he feared that the authority would lose any appeal if they refused it. But Cllr Maureen Charlesworth was appalled: “These are big houses and there will be families and children running around. It is an accident waiting to happen.” Attempts by Cllr Emily Westley and Cllr Matthew J Lock to refuse permission were both rebuffed, and Cllr Andrew Gurney called it “a really bizarre situation.”

Cllr Joy Waite called on the council to make sure this kind of thing could not happen again. She said: “We have found there is a great big hole in our policies because we have not been able to find one that safeguards people’s safety in this town. We need to plug this loophole.”

Richard Price, convenor of The Hastings Planning and Heritage Watchdog, who was at the meeting said it demonstrated why so many people were losing faith in the planning process. “I think it showed how weak the policies are. It just shows how much work is needed to bring things right.”

Cllr Alan Roberts said after the meeting the new Local Development framework currently being drawn up should address some of the issues around the planning process.