Eastbourne council ordered to pay developer’s appeal costs over plans to demolish church and build housing

Eastbourne Borough Council has been ordered to pay a developer’s appeal costs over plans to demolish a vacant church and build housing in its place.
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In a decision notice published on Wednesday (February 21), a planning inspector has overturned the refusal of plans to demolish St Andrews Church in Blackwater Road and build 17 terraced houses in its place.

The council had refused the scheme in November 2022, on the grounds it would: impact on highway safety; have an insufficient number of parking spaces; and fail to provide the correct mix of housing, when compared to previously approved proposals to build 35 apartments on the same site.

But the inspector reached a different conclusion.

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In their decision notice, the inspector said: “I am mindful that the proposal would effectively lead to a reduction in the housing supply figures given that the scheme for 35 apartments on the site, already included in the supply figures, would not be delivered. This therefore tempers the level of the benefits and I ascribe them moderate weight.”They added: “The council can only demonstrate 1.8 years of deliverable housing land. In these circumstances, footnote 8 of the [National Planning Policy] Framework establishes that the policies which are most important for determining an application are out-of-date.

“Consequently, planning permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole.”

The inspector also reached the view that the scheme would not have a ‘harmful effect’ on highway safety.

Ultimately, the inspector judged the adverse impacts to be lesser than the benefits, even though the scheme “would not make an efficient use of the site for housing delivery”.

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Moreover, the inspector also found that the council had “failed to substantiate” its reasons for refusal, having provided no commentary on how it reached the reasons it did. The inspector said this amounted to ‘unreasonable behaviour’ so ordered the council to pay the developer’s appeal costs.

For further information see application reference 210537 on the Eastbourne Borough Council website.