More than 100 objections made against plans to turn Victorian-era building into HMO

Proposals to turn an Eastbourne building dating from the Victorian era into an 18-bedroom HMO have received more than 100 objections.

A planning application to change the use of Hardwick House, in Hardwick Road, has been submitted to Eastbourne Borough Council by Bedford Park Developments.

The application lays out plans for renovation of the existing building to create a total of 18 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and two shared kitchen/dining rooms.

It does not describe any plans to add more parking for residents, with the application stating that ‘there is plenty of on street parking available’.

Hardwick House was originally built as one of a number of grand residential ‘villas’ on the road in the Victorian era, before being turned into an HMO. It then served as a retirement home from the 1980s, but closed in April 2022.

The proposals to turn the building back into an HMO have received 107 objections from local residents and groups.

Lucy Hancock has lived in Hardwick Road for 22 years and said she is now ‘seriously concerned for our family’s safety and mental wellbeing’.

She said: “To have an 18-room property opposite our house is deeply concerning. With the university’s withdrawal from Eastbourne, HMO’s typical use for university would not be the case.

“Therefore, the next key group would be unemployed, ex-offenders, newly homeless, vulnerable members of society and potentially to house refugees.

"Any members from this group will put extra pressure on a council that is struggling to cope with its existing resources with doctors, hospitals, refuge collections and putting additional pressure on resources.”

An objection from leader of Eastbourne Borough Council Councillor Stephen Holt describes the plans as an ‘overdevelopment’.

"Whilst well run, established HMOs are a valuable part of a town’s make up, I am concerned that this is an overdevelopment of the area, and would put a strain on local services,” he said.

“The area is a key development area for our tourism, being in close proximity to our major hotels, along with the major conference and events facility in the town centre.

"The number of potential new occupants will undoubtedly have an impact in terms of noise and potential disturbance.”

A further objection, made by Nicholas Chapman on behalf of Eastbourne College, lays out ‘safeguarding concerns’ for local students.

Mr Chapman said: “There is a correlation and debate nationally about the proliferation of HMOs and a disproportionate increase in crime and antisocial behaviour.

"Were this to result, it would present a safeguarding concern for the school, as we are a few streets away with 300 plus boarding pupils and a similar number of day pupils on campus and our surrounding buildings each day.”

In 2022, the developer submitted an application to convert the building into six two-bedroom flats which was approved conditionally, but did not go ahead. According to a letter from senior planning policy officer Anna Clare, proposals for the site had to be reconsidered after it was found that construction costs involved with this development were ‘prohibitively high’.

Planning permission for two further cottages on land to the rear of Hardwick House – submitted by the same developer – have already been approved conditionally.

For further information about both applications, see reference 230837 and 230530 on the Eastbourne Borough Council website.