Inspector turns down appeal for college site

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after a planning inspector decided the council was right to turn down a multi-million pound plan to build 150 homes on the former Hastings College site.

The members of the Save the Archery Road Ground group were elated after inspector Katie Peerless decided plans for the site were unacceptable.

STAG co-chairman Trish Evans said: “The inspector’s decision reflects unanimous community opinion, as well as that of the majority of HBC councillors on the planning committee.

“However, the planning officers, who backed this development, regrettably, have some distance to go to win back the confidence of local people.”

In June, Gladedale’s bid to build on the Burton St Leonards site was thrown out by the council’s planning committee.

The scheme attracted 600 letters of objection and four petitions against it.

Councillors on the planning committee turned it down for not being in sympathy with the appearance of the area, not displaying high quality distinctive architecture and being of poor design.

Gladedale appealed against the ruling and a six-day public inquiry was held at the Magnet Centre in St Leonards last month.

The inquiry heard from a number of local residents opposed to the scheme and expert council witness Eimear Murphy who said the plans ‘went against the grain’.

But Clive Newberry QC, for Gladedale, told how the scheme was a ‘model of co-operation between the appellant and the officers of the local planning authority,’ and ‘residents will live in some of the carefully designed, well-built sustainable buildings’.

However Ms Peerless disagreed.

In the conclusion of a 19-page decision dossier, she states: “The scheme would conflict with the statutory duties of requiring the protection of the setting of listed buildings.

“The scheme fails to meet the guidance on acceptable standards of design.

“The scheme has benefits in terms of refurbishment of the listed buildings, the provision of new housing and would increase green space and public accessibility of the site.

“Nevertheless these benefits do not outweigh the harm identified.”

Lee Wilson, co-chairman of STAG, said: “We hope this decision will mark a real change in attitudes at the Town Hall to St Leonards ­which is experiencing a renaissance in its fortunes for the first time in decades.

“Now we, and they, have got a second chance to do the right thing.

“It’s been a long, tough fight for STAG and it’s not over.

“There will be another scheme and another planning application.

“We hope the next time the council officers and the developer will listen to local concerns.”