The proposed site layout at Bellway’s new development in St Leonards.

210 new homes to be built next to ancient woodland on former St Leonards school site

More than 200 new homes are to be built on the site of a former school in St Leonards.

By Alex Watts
Friday, 14th January 2022, 12:11 pm

The 23-acre site - south of Crowhurst Road and north of Darwell Close - was previously the St Leonards Academy’s former Darwell Close campus, also known as the former Grove School site. Plans for developer Bellway to build 210 new homes there were approved by Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee last month.

Bellway will build 158 homes for private sale, and 52 “affordable properties” available for local people through rent, or shared ownership schemes.

It will build a range of one and two-bedroom flats and two, three and four-bedroom houses on the site, as well as providing a “multi-use games area” and children’s play areas.

The previous school buildings have already been demolished to make way for the development. Work is due to start in the spring, with the first homes due to be released for sale this autumn.

Dan Merriman, land director of Bellway Kent, said: “We are looking forward to starting work at the site to deliver much-needed new homes to help meet the area’s housing needs. When formulating these plans we worked closely with Hastings Borough Council to design a scheme to transform a former brownfield site – a disused school campus – into a new neighbourhood. The vacant site, where the school buildings had already been demolished, features areas of wooded land and is right next door to Dogkennel Wood – a much-loved ancient woodland. We are to deliver a development which is sympathetic in tone and appearance to the surrounding area.

“To this end, we will help the site blend in with the woodland by creating a 15-metre green buffer where the development directly neighbours Dogkennel Wood, as well as planting more than 70 trees, both native and ornamental, and seasonal shrubbery on the green public spaces throughout the development.

“We are not only committing to St Leonards by regenerating a brownfield site, but we are also creating a sustainable new community where nearly a quarter of the new homes on this site are designated as affordable housing. These 52 properties will enable local people to live in a top-quality new home while staying in the area to be close to families, friends and work. The 158 private homes, meanwhile, will attract a mix of first-time buyers, couples, downsizers and growing families to help create a vibrant new feel to this area of St Leonards.”

The plans drew some criticism when East Sussex County Council signed off the land to be sold in January last year. Ward councillor Matthew Beaver (Con) said the planned development “shows the worst of what can happen when the council has one overridding priority and that is to build as many houses as it possibly can regardless of what green spaces it concretes over.”

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