Concerns remain with golf club’s storage building plans

Controversial proposals to build a greenskeeper’s shed at a golf club near Crowborough have been deferred for a second time. 

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 4:47 pm

On Thursday (June 24), Wealden District Council’s planning committee north considered proposals to build a corrugated metal storage building, together with a new access track, at the Boars Head Golf Course in Eridge Road. 

The application had previously been considered by the committee in May, where the proposals were deferred largely due to councillors’ concerns it would have a visual impact on the area due to its location (although concerns were also raised about its design during discussion as well).

Through the deferral, the committee had asked officers to discuss making changes to the scheme with the applicant, particularly whether it would be possible to move the building to another location within the wider golf course site.

The proposed storage building would be in the top right hand corner

This did not happen, much to the chagrin of several councillors. 

Those to express frustrations included Cllr Neil Waller (Con, Crowborough North), who argued the scheme should be refused outright. 

He said: “As members of this committee will know, I usually try and support most applications, but I thought the deferral last time was an olive branch from this committee to the applicant. It came with ‘a must do better’ tag. 

“What we have in front of us is an identical proposal from the applicant. They haven’t done better, they haven’t addressed the concerns we had around location, this really long road [and] construction materials.

“As has been said, a location near to the existing clubhouse and next to the car park could be accommodated and would not be seen.

“I feel that the applicants have given us short shrift here and we should therefore send a very strong message back to them for doing that and refuse this application.”

Giving reasons for refusal, Cllr Waller argued the proposals would impact on the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and environment in a way in which could be addressed through a revised scheme. 

This view was shared by a great number of councillors on the committee, although planning officers urged caution due to fears over defending the decision at appeal.

Part of this, officers said, is because the applicant had offered to tie the proposals (through conditions) to the construction of a conference centre, which was approved in 2019.

This link, officers said, meant the visual impact would need to be considered in the context of the wider development of the site. 

Stacey Robins, the council’s head of planning, said: “If we refuse it as a committee, what an inspector is going to say is ‘I hear these concerns about the AONB and associated impact but you have already granted an events building [nearby].’

“That is a substantial structure that has got planning permission and is about to start [construction], so I would ask members to very much bear that in mind.”

This existing planning permission also meant the majority of the access track proposed as part of the application has already been approved, so would not be strong grounds for refusal.

This argument did appear to resonate with some committee members, although there was disagreement over whether to refuse, approve or defer the scheme in hopes of the developer putting forward a new location.   

Despite these split views, the committee ultimately opted for a further deferral, although only after a six-to-six tied vote was broken by committee chairman Johanna Howell.

Unlike the previous deferral, however, the committee also formally put forward their concerns about the building’s design and environmental credentials. Cllr Howell also said the committee would have a site visit before the application returned to committee.

For further details on the proposal see application reference WD/2021/0181/F on the Wealden District Council website.