Campaigners call for halt to convent conversion plans

CAMPAIGNERS against plans to develop the site of an historic convent believe the application should be withdrawn after new information came to light.

Tunbridge Wells company Enplan has applied for permission to build 165 new homes next to the College of the Holy Child Jesus in Magdalen Road, St Leonards, as well as restoring and converting the Gothic building, gate lodge, priory and former convent building.

Residents living nearby came out against the plans almost as soon as they were lodged in March last year, but now they think they have discovered a major flaw in the proposals.

Initially planners had claimed they needed to build the new properties - 59 houses and 106 flats - to bankroll the repairs for the listed buildings on the site,

Under UK planning law, it is possible to submit plans that might otherwise be deemed unsuitable if the end result is to preserve historic buildings.

But in a letter sent by Alan Byrne of English Heritage to Amber Rudd MP - who has weighed in on the side of the campaigners - he states that: “The value of the repaired buildings..(is)..sufficient to meet the cost of repairing the listed buildings.”

He goes on to explain that the developers were not arguing the so-called enabling law applied in this case, but campaigners say there has been too much confusion on this issue and the plans should be withdrawn.

They point to the developers’ documents which state: “The sole justification for developing the site was to ensure the future of the listed buildings.”

Maureen Jarvis, one of the protesters, said: “There are some very serious questions to be answered.

“I believe the application should be withdrawn is that there so many inaccurate statements in the documents that it totally misrepresents the true picture and that, therefore, no fair decision can be made on the basis of these documents.

“The wanton destruction of this town’s historic and natural environment has to stop.”

It is not yet clear when the scheme will be considered by the Hastings Borough Council planning committee.