Decision due on old college site by Christmas

20/6/12- Protestors campaigning to save the archery ground outside Hastings Town Hall
20/6/12- Protestors campaigning to save the archery ground outside Hastings Town Hall

CHRISTMAS could come early for campaigners who have been fighting for three years to stop 150 homes being built on the old Hastings College site.

A public inquiry concluded at the Magnet Centre in London Road, St Leonards on Tuesday and a decision will be made by December 21.

During the hearing, planning inspector Katie Peerless heard evidence from the Save The Archery Ground (STAG) campaign group, Hastings Borough Council and Gladedale.

In June Gladedale’s plans were thrown out by the council’s planning committee.

The scheme was judged to be not in sympathy with the appearance of the area, not displaying high quality distinctive architecture and being of poor design.

During the final day of the hearing on Tuesday, all parties were invited to sum up their evidence.

Lee Wilson, representing STAG, said: “We contend the scheme would be out of scale with the historic pattern of development and out of sympathy with the character of the surrounding conservation areas.

“It will crowd out the listed Decimus Burton villas, remove the mature trees that currently soften the views of the college buildings from the listed Norman Shaw Bannow, and diminish the value of both the listed terrace and the neighbouring heritage assets.

“It would fail the test of acceptability set out in local and national planning policies.

“We say the scheme’s failure to preserve or enhance the conservation area is self evident and contrary to local plan policies.”

Robert Walton, representing the borough council, who was trying to have the original decision upheld, said: “Taken on balance, it is harmful to the conservation area and the siting of the listed buildings. The council’s view is that is unaccpetable.

“The architecture just seeks to be broadly acceptable.”

Clive Newberry, QC, representing Gladedale, said: “This scheme is a model of cooperation between the appellant and officers of the local planning authority.

He added: “It is inconceivable that the chief planner and a senior conservation officer would conclude that a scheme which followed their guidance would be out with policy national or local.

“In his conclusions the chief planning officer states; in terms of the new buildings I consider the proposed development as a whole will enhance the character of the conservation area and the setting of many of the listed buildings surrounded by the site.

He continued: “Residents will live in some carefully designed, well-built sustainable buildings.”

In september 2007, the council

produced a planning brief for the site.

Gladedale made its first application in 2009 sparking a call to arms from local residents.

The Save The Archery Ground group formed in september 2009.

The council received 600 letters of objection and four petitions, the largest number of complaints every received. after three years of campaigning the group celebrated its finest hour when in June this year, the council threw out Gladedale’s plans.

Gladedale immediately appealed against the decision and a public inquiry was granted and began last week.

A decision is due next month.