On Tuesday (September 21), Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee considered two applications connected to the former Summerdown and Pentlow nursing home sites in Summerdown Road.
They each sought permission for the construction of six houses and six flats — a total of 24 new homes on adjoining sites — but were recommended for refusal on the grounds their design and bulk would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding area.
Simon Franks, a planning agent acting for the applicant, said this recommendation had caught his client by surprise, given their planning history and revisions to the scheme.
He said: “As the committee are aware, a previous proposal to replace the nursing home that has occupied the Pentlow and Summerdown site for the last 40 years with a new purpose-built facility was refused by the committee in 2019.
“As result the homes are now closed, with the loss of about 50 jobs. Some staff remain unemployed at this time.
“Despite this frustration the applicant has decided that before vacating this site they still desire to provide a positive legacy to the residents of Eastbourne.
“They wish to develop a site not with a few grand homes solely for the moneyed affluent and aspire to provide a variety of homes that address the greater need of the less affluent residents of Eastbourne.”
To do this, Mr Franks said the applicant had worked with planners on the proposals, making several revisions to address specific concerns.
He said the proposals had reached a point earlier this year where planning officers had indicated they would recommend approval and had even begun drafting a section 106 legal agreement.
He said: “On the 10th of September — seven working days ago — we received an email from the planning officer saying support for the scheme was withdrawn.
“There was no reason and no context. Quite simply we are stunned.”
As the meeting continued, committee members heard how the applicant had put forward amended plans after becoming aware of the officers’ recommendation to refuse the scheme.
Officers said these amended proposals had not yet been given proper scrutiny and said the committee would need to defer their decision until this had happened.
They warned the council was ‘duty bound’ to do so and could open itself to a maladministration claim if it did not give the amendments proper consideration and consultation before making a decision.
Even so some members of the committee — which had made its support for refusal quite clear — felt aggrieved by the situation.
Cllr Barry Taylor (Con, Meads) said: “It worries me when I hear about deferral, because I think the officers have made the correct recommendation for tonight.
“What worries me when you defer an application is that it is just a slightly tweaked version of what we have here. We will be back here at another planning meeting in probably three months time.
“I think it is wrong. I think we should not defer it, I think we should refuse the application and let the officers work with the applicant to decide on a whole new look not just tweaking what is already here.”
Despite these views the committee as a whole felt the advice from officers’ should be followed and agreed to defer the scheme for consideration of the new information.
The committee also heard the scheme would be guaranteed to come back before the committee for any decision.
For further information on the proposals see application reference 200968 on the Eastbourne Borough Council website.