Controversial new-build near Hastings set for fresh hearing

A controversial application submitted by a former district councillor is set to return to Rother planners, after its original approval was quashed following a judicial review process.
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Although a date has not yet been set, Rother District Council’s planning committee is expected to soon reconsider proposals to build a two-bedroom dwelling – described as a ‘carbon negative live/work space’ – on land at Beech Farm near Sedlescombe.

While it had been recommended for refusal at the time, the scheme was granted planning permission in July 2022 as committee members felt it qualified for an “exceptional design” exemption to rules otherwise intended to limit development of open countryside.

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This decision sparked protests from a group of parish councils, who argued it would erode protections against development within the High Weald National Landscape. One of these councils – Ticehurst Parish Council – put forward its concerns in the form of an application for a judicial review, which led to the original planning decision being quashed.

An CGI representation of the property proposed for Beech FarmAn CGI representation of the property proposed for Beech Farm
An CGI representation of the property proposed for Beech Farm

The application had originally been submitted by Jonathan Vine-Hall, who had been both the council’s lead member for strategic planning and planning committee chairman at the time. Cllr Vine-Hall is no longer a member of Rother District Council, but remains a councillor currently serving as chairman of Sedlescombe Parish Council.

The quashing of the original decision relates to Cllr Vine-Hall’s involvement in the scheme.

In putting forward its grounds for judicial review, Ticehurst Parish Council argued that Cllr Vine-Hall’s participation in the July 2022 planning committee meeting had “infringed the requirements of natural justice”.

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Cllr Vine-Hall did not vote on the scheme himself nor act as chairman during its discussion, but did address the committee as the applicant. He did so after taking advice from council officers, which it has since been acknowledged was given in error.

This part of the parish council’s argument was conceded by Rother District Council, resulting in the decision being quashed through a high court consent order in December.

Rother District Council will also pay the costs incurred by Ticehurst Parish Council during the judicial review process. When approached by the LDRS, the district council said the full amount of these costs has yet to be determined.

Ticehurst Parish Council declined to comment when approached by the LDRS.

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The result of the judicial review process is that the application is now set for redetermination by Rother District Council’s planning committee. A date for the rehearing has not yet been set, but those close to the process understand it may take place at a planning meeting due to be held on March 14.

For further details of the proposals, see application reference RR/2022/840/P on the Rother District Council website.

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