Council faces ‘6-figure sum’ bill after refusing Bexhill business park

Rother District Council faces a ‘six-figure sum’ bill after it rejected plans for a new industrial park in Bexhill.

The council’s planning committee refused planning permission in October 2019 for a business development on the Bexhill Enterprise Park in between Combe Valley Way and Haven Brook Avenue, formerly known as the North Bexhill Access Road.

Industrial property developer Westcott Leach had proposed a set of light industrial units covering around 84,000 sq ft of floor space, with associated parking and landscaping.

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Sea Change Sussex, which owns the land, had proposed to develop a supporting access road and provide the necessary utilities.

An artist's impression of the proposed development SUS-210422-164417001

It said the proposed scheme could support up to 500 jobs.

Sea Change Sussex and Westcott Leach lodged appeals against the council’s actions.

These were considered by planning inspector Lesley Coffey BTP RTPI, acting on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities, in a four-day hearing and site visit in January.

A spokesman for Sea Change said the inspector also awarded costs to Westcott Leach and Sea Change Sussex, which are likely to run to a six-figure sum, in relation to all five appeals brought by the developers.

The location proposed for the industrial scheme. The main road shown is the new Haven Brook Avenue (North Bexhill Access Road), connecting via a roundabout in the bottom right corner to Combe Valley Way (the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road) SUS-210422-164427001

In her written judgement, Ms Coffey said: “The proposal would deliver much-needed employment floorspace [and] would help to create the conditions in which businesses can invest, expand and adapt, thereby supporting economic growth in the local area.”

Sea Change Sussex and Westcott Leach expressed gratitude for the ‘clear and decisive guidance provided by the inspector in her decision’.

In a statement, they said: “While it’s regrettable that the benefits of the scheme have been delayed by over 26 months, despite our repeated efforts to resolve the issues prior to the planning committee decision and the costly appeal process, we remain committed to delivery of the scheme and hope to start construction as soon as possible.”

Despite the outcome of the appeal, the developers have expressed concerns about the timescales for moving ahead because Rother District Council has advised it may take up to 150 days for its determination of the planning condition discharges, in addition to five-week planning validation delays.

Sea Change Sussex said: “We understand these delays are affecting many applicants, with the council having already suspended pre-application planning services.

“We’d encourage Rother District Council to address these issues as a matter of urgency so they don’t impact local construction jobs and employment.”

Bexhill Chamber of Commerce fully supported the appeal against the planning decision.

Howard Martin, president of Bexhill Chamber of Commerce, said: “The appeal outcome is important for all businesses in Bexhill and Rother. The planning processes at Rother District Council have been moribund for far too long and have blocked investment at all levels in our community - both domestic and business.

“We’re very pleased Sea Change committed their resources and expertise into fighting the case, hopefully to make the planning processes quicker and more effective for everyone.”

A Rother District Council spokesman said: “We note the inspector’s decision and will be working through the matter with the applicant.”

* Got a story? Ring reporters Richard Gladstone on 07803 505794 or Stephen Wynn-Davies on 07393 754494.