Heathfield home goes to an appeal

Holdenhurst in Mill Road, Heathfield
Holdenhurst in Mill Road, Heathfield

An appeal has been lodged against Wealden District Council’s decision to refuse consent for an old people’s home in Heathfield to be demolished and an extra care facility built on the same site.

Last November, Abbeyfield South Downs Society which runs Holdenhurst House in Mill Road, applied to demolish the existing home and Gray Court set at the rear of the half-hectare site.

They proposed constructing a part-three storey building and providing 54 extra care apartments together with landscaping.

Abbeyfield worked with Wealden planners to come up with a scheme that satisfied the council’s planning requirements and company bosses also met residents to take account of their concerns.

But although the scheme was approved by planners, it was earmarked for refusal by Heathfield Parish Council. And at a public planning meeting it was turned down by committee members.

Neighbours living in Mill Road said they had no objection to the concept of an old folks home but they did not approve of the height, massing and scale of this building. They said the scheme was totally out of character with the area and they were also concerned that it would exacerbate drainage problems, increase traffic and put pressure on local parking - already a problem because of the proximity of a primary school. In view of the age of potential residents they also felt the scheme would place undue pressure on local medical facilities.

They formed a residents’ committee to fight the application and were pleased when councillors made their decision, forcing Abbeyfield to take a step back.

Now the scheme has re-emerged with Abbeyfield lodging an appeal against the council’s refusal.

At the time, local councillors advised residents to ‘be cautious what they wished for.’ They pointed out that the site falls within the development envelope for Heathfield. If the extra care apartments scheme was turned down, Abbeyfield could sell the site which could then be used for housing. One member said this would place far more pressure on local facilities.

It was pointed out that older people were unlikely to use as many private cars and the only comings and goings would be staff and visiting relatives. Objectors’ main concerns were not the use of the building but its height and proximity to the road and neighbouring properties. Some were also worried that the town would lose an attractive and historic building. A date has not yet been set for the hearing.

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