Controversial housing plans refused

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Controversial plans for a housing development in Hastings have been refused by a planning committee this week.

In an application to Hastings Borough Council, developers had been seeking permission to build up to 40 dwellings at the former Mount Pleasant Hospital site, off of Frederick Road.

The proposals had been recommended for refusal by planning officers due to a range of concerns and were unanimously refused by committee members at a meeting on Wednesday (July 18).

Commenting on the decision, Cllr Mike Turner (Lab.) said: “There was an opportunity here for the developer to have a talk with our officers and come up with something more acceptable.

“[But] when I look at the site, I find it difficult to see anything where I would go ‘that’s a good idea’.  It is one problem after the other.”

During the meeting, committee members heard that designs for a cycle path through the site – which developers would be required to provide as part of the Ore Valley Greenway – was not considered to be appropriate or safe.

Planning officers also raised concerns about the access to the development site, said it had an insufficient number of parking spaces and was of a ‘poor design’ generally.

Before making a decision, the committee heard a number of representations. They included: Ian Sear, of the Ore Valley Action group; Roger Nightingale of planning consultants Kember Loudon Williams; and council leader Peter Chowney, who spoke as the representative of Tressell Ward.

Acting on behalf of the applicant, Mr Nightingale urged councillors to defer making a decision until a later meeting, so that amended plans – which council officers say were submitted after the deadline on July 11 – could be considered instead.

He also highlighted that the site had been allocated as an area for housing in the Hastings local plan.

Mr Nightingale said: “As we have heard this is an allocated site and there is no question that it is going to be developed. Clearly it is in everybody’s interests that the form and content of the scheme is correct.

“As you have heard there have been amended plans submitted. I would say those plans resulted from a number of constructive meetings with officers since the application was submitted and following the initial concerns that officers raised.

“It is a shame, I think, that those amended drawings have not been accepted to be part of this application.”

Mr Nightingale was challenged on his argument by Matthew Beaver, Conservative councillor for West St Leonards, who said: “There are just so many things about this site, which have been commented on by various different people, as to why it is unacceptable.

“Yes, some of those things have been addressed in the amended plans, but surely it was known that this was not going to be an acceptable application as it is. Surely the best thing would have been to withdraw it and address the concerns of residents.”

During his time Mr Sear – who spoke as a representative of petitioners opposing the application – criticised the site’s position in the Hastings local plan, saying the developers were attempting to put ‘too many houses on the site.’

He said: “It is important to say that Ore Valley Action, which was formed in 2006 because of concerns around overdevelopment and the loss of green space in Ore, is not opposed to development.

“We are certainly not opposed to development on this site either but we believe regeneration should be of good quality design, particularly in Ore Valley, and this is certainly not that.”

Cllr Chowney also criticised the proposals raising concerns about an unadopted road on the site, which he said would pose a major problem for any potential residents.

He said: “I note in the report that [the road] is not going to be recommended for adoption. I think that’s a problem as well.

“Who is going to pay for the electricity and street lights out here? The county council won’t because it is not adopted. Who is going to clean it? There is no reason that Hastings Borough Council should clean it, because it is not adopted.

“All those things would be a problem for anyone moving in there.”

Committee chairman Alan Roberts, a councillor for Wishing Tree ward, declared a personal interest as his partner lives near to the application site. As a result he left the room during the discussion and did not take part in the vote.

All nine remaining councillors voted against the plans.

Huw Oxburgh , Local Democracy Reporting Service