By Tom McCann
A controversial plan to build housing in the empty fields off Harrow Lane was the subject of heated debate during a three hour meeting of Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) Planning Committee last week.
Approval has already been granted to build 50 homes on the site, however the developer has resubmitted their proposals and now want to develop an additional 17 new houses.
This new plan for 67 homes would comprise a mixture of one and two-bedroom flats, as well as two, three and four bedroom houses, with 26 of the total 67 builds designated as ‘affordable housing’.
People living close to the site have so far submitted 20 letters of objection against the development, with Councillor Mike Edwards saying: “There has been much anger in the local area,” before raising concerns over the additional builds included in the new proposal and also the loss of green space in the area.
“The site is not a dedicated open space so there would be no objection to the loss of it,” principal planner Thandi Zulu told the meeting, adding “the site is allocated for housing.”
Councillor Paul Foster objected, saying: “It may not be designated, but it is a green space to residents. I’m sure they would highly disagree that it’s not.”
Like other areas currently proposed for housing development by HBC, concerns are also being raised that the area may be at risk of flooding.
“The notes for this meeting suggest the drainage system doesn’t resolve concerns of flood risk raised by East Sussex County Council,” Mr Foster pointed out.
“I’d like to know why the Council doesn’t believe rainfalls aren’t going to lead to flooding in Harrow Lane. This could be a severe problem for the residents if this is granted.
Ms Zulu said: “The Flood Risk Officer of the County has not objected to the development, seeming to suggest there is no risk of flooding brought on by the developments.”
Concerns were also raised over the sustainability of the project, and speaking of the Council’s pledge to be carbon neutrality by 2030, Councillor Mathew Beaver said: “These plans will do absolutely nothing to contribute to that.
“To call it a sustainable development is frankly laughable,” he added, pointing out that neither solar panels nor electric car charge points are currently included within the proposal.
And Councillor Sorrell Marlow-Eastwood of the Ashdown Ward—which is where the site is based—noted concerns over the increase in the density of the site caused by the additional buildings, saying and said: “To push it up so much is just insanity.”
Concerns over road congestion and parking were also raised throughout the meeting by several councillors, particularly by Mr Beaver and Mrs Marlow-Eastwood.
Speaking earlier in the meeting, Mr Beaver dismissed claims that traffic would not be worsened in the area by the additional builds, he said: “Putting it bluntly—that’s total rubbish.”
Expanding on this, Mrs Marlow-Eastwood said: “Roads will be affected. Whether East Sussex Highways have an issue with it or not.
“The Ridge is already backed up very often and even ambulances have trouble getting through—let alone the top and bottom of Harrow Lane during peak times, so the additions would be an issue.
“It makes a huge difference to people’s lives in that area. What we don’t want to is to sell them short…”Councillor Sorrell Marlow-Eastwood
“It’s all well and good putting in a traffic plan, but considering many of these are two-bedroom houses, we’re probably talking about couples which will mean two cars everywhere. People don’t take busses from that area—it’s not great to get about and the hills stop people walking and cycling. When you add in work vans, the development in that density will end up congested and I can’t even picture dustbin lorries getting through easily let alone a fire engine.”
Councillors were repeatedly reminded by Planning Services Manager Eleanor Evans that they must explain in full why they object to the proposal, often making note of the housing shortage in the town.
According to Mrs Evans: “Concerns over parking can only be raised over the additional 17 houses, as plans for 50 houses in the area have already been approved.”
Mrs Marlow-Eastwood replied that: “Seventeen new houses is not a throw-away number, that’s potentially an extra 34 cars in the area. It makes a huge difference to people’s lives in that area. What we don’t want to is to sell them short, because in the planning things became tricky for us.”
Regarding concerns raised over density, Mrs Evans continued: “Policy requires density be at least 30 dwellings per hectare,” the proposal currently stands at 36.
“With the way government guidance is changing, 36 a low density in real terms.”
Following the lengthy debate, Mr Beaver proposed that the committee should refuse the application and this was seconded by Councillor Warren Davies and then put to vote.
Voting to approve the application were Councillors Heather Bishop, Margi O’Callaghan, Ruby Cox, and Chair of the Committee Alan Roberts. Voting for its refusal were Councillors James Bacon, Paul Foster, Sorrel Marlow-Eastwood, Warren Davies and Matthew Beaver.
That meant by five votes to four the application was refused.