The developers behind a controversial holiday let at the Rocklands Holiday Park have come in for criticism from Hastings planners.
The comments came at a meeting of Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee on Wednesday (August 14) as councillors considered an application to lay a paving slab patio around a holiday let building at the private caravan park in Rocklands Lane.
While the works were relatively minor, the application came as the latest chapter in a controversial and long-running planning saga.
Developers had been granted planning permission for a building on the site in 2012, but were later ordered to tear it down by the council in 2015 as the (then partially-built) holiday let did not match the approved designs.
This decision, which was made following a retrospective planning application, was later overturned at appeal in 2016 and the holiday let was allowed to remain standing.
READ MORE: Park owners ordered to tear down building
In considering the application to lay paving slabs around the building, officers told the committee it was considered to be ‘part-retrospective’ as work had already begun.
This point drew ire from West St Leonards councillor Matthew Beaver (Con), who said: “It has been a long-running thing which I would say many of us are fed up about. It has been going on for so, so long.
“It is retrospective. I dislike retrospective applications and as soon as something is brought in – even at government level – the better.
“I’m fed up of them coming before us saying: ‘Oops I’m sorry we didn’t know we required planning permission beforehand so we have stuck half of it in’.
“I have very great doubts about this, simply because I think it is just another application by the developers. I wonder what will be coming next before us in a few months time, no doubt a swimming pool or helipad.
“I think we should draw a line in the sand here now and stop this happening any further. I won’t be agreeing it and I will be opposing it.”
Criticism was also levelled by Bob Okines, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of the campaign group Save Ecclesbourne Glen (SEG).
Mr Okines said: “The Rocklands affair has been characterised by a failure to properly review evidence submitted by objectors, failure to recognise planning and licensing breaches and failure to take effective action go ensure unauthorised developments do not hurt our country park.
“Sadly these failures appear to be echoed in the handling of this application.”
In his representation, Mr Okines argued the granting of planning permission could come into conflict with the conditions imposed at the appeal hearing in 2016 – particularly those intended to protect the environment and drainage.
He added: “The appeal was only passed because conditions were placed to protect the environment.
“It is nonsense that these conditions can be overridden by a new application on the same site.”
He also argued that part of the work would be taking place on land owned by Hastings Borough Council, although this was disputed by council officers.
Officers also said the application would not result in the loss of the conditions imposed at appeal.
Despite the criticism, the committee ultimately decided to approve the application in line with the officer’s recommendation.
Cllr Mike Edwards (Con, Ashdown) said: “It has been quite a torturous and long-standing issue here, but I don’t suppose there is anybody here who is a real expert on the membership of the committee.
“We can read all the documents, we can take a view and we can look at the letters of objection – some of which are extremely articulate, I would say.
“But at the same time we are never going to be [as] well-informed on the matters of fact like the officers are.
“So my view is, reluctantly, that we have to take the view that the officers are right and the course they are recommending.”