Conversion of former Eastbourne doctors’ surgery approved

Plans to convert a former doctors’ surgery into flats have been given the go ahead by town planners. 

The former Enys Road Surgery building
The former Enys Road Surgery building

On Tuesday (September 21), Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee approved proposals to convert the old Enys Road Surgery building into nine apartments. 

The application came after an earlier proposal which would have seen the building converted into a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

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Simon Franks, the applicant’s agent, said the HMO scheme had been withdrawn in light of the concerns from nearby residents that such a development would lead to anti-social behaviour. 

He said: “The original proposal was for a HMO, prompted in response to the applicant having received numerous enquiries from perspective residents looking for good quality HMOs, having been disappointed by the quality that is currently available.

“But after consultation, the planning case officer advised the proposal was not well received by the neighbours. There were objections raised, many based on deliberate misrepresentation and others based on misunderstandings of what a HMO in the 21st century can be. 

“The perception was outdated and simply not what was proposed. Nevertheless, based on the discussions with the case officer and to address the neighbours’ concerns the proposal has been completely revised to provide self-contained flats, all complying with national housing space standards.”

Mr Franks said the applicant had made further revisions to the scheme in light of other objections and concerns.  He added that the developer intended to provide good quality accommodation through the proposals. 

Residents disagreed with this argument, however, saying they were still concerned about what the proposals could mean for the area in terms of anti-social behaviour. 

Residents pointed to Sussex Police withdrawing its initial support for the scheme as evidence of these fears.

Some of the residents’ concerns were summed up by ward councillor Pat Rodohan (Lib Dem, Upperton) who said: “What is most worrying residents is that this application is for 19 residents plus visitors. The worry is that the building could easily be altered to take many more people and become a HMO. 

“It has been pointed out to me that each self-contained unit has an open plan kitchen and living area. The living areas could easily be partitioned off from the kitchen area. 

“This would mean that the number of residents would be back up to what it was previously, in the region of 30, and it would effectively become a HMO.”

To address concerns, Cllr Rodohan asked for security lighting as there was a history of anti-social behaviour behind the building. 

He asked for a condition limiting the number of residents who could occupy the full apartment building.  

However, officers said this limit would not be a reasonable or enforceable condition.

They also highlighted how the building would be split in two separate properties and said that any deviation from that plan — by petitioning rooms for example — would require planning permission or be subject to enforcement action. 

Officers also warned that the committee could not base an objection on ‘the intended occupants’ of the building as it was not a planning matter.

Some of Cllr Rodohan’s concerns were shared by committee members as well, although the committee as a whole felt there were not strong material planning grounds to refuse the scheme. 

Following further discussion the application was approved seven votes to one.

For further details see application reference 210333 on the Eastbourne Borough Council website.