Proposals to build a family home on the site of a Newhaven barn described as an ‘anti-social behaviour hotspot’ have been supported.
n application to demolish a dilapidated barn on land adjacent to Bush Road and build a family home in its place was approved by Lewes District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday (March 13).
The proposals had initially been recommended for refusal, as the site is designated as undeveloped agricultural land within the South Downs National Park.
But, before making a decision, the committee heard how the site has had a long history as a problem spot for anti-social behaviour and had been set on fire several times in recent years.
Speaking on behalf of Newhaven Town Council, Steve Saunders (Independent – Newhaven Valley) said: “This application is effectively to do with a redundant building situated at the end of an existing cul-de-sac. It borders open field and what is locally known as Bluebell Wood.
“It has been subjected to at least two arson attacks in recent years and the asbestos-containing materials it is constructed of are therefore a danger to the local residents if any such further criminal activity occurs.
“There have also been issues with drug-taking at the site.
“As chair of the town [council] planning committee, I am happy to reiterate our welcoming of this development and as ward councillor I can welcome the proposal as it removes a site which is of concern to me and the nearby residents I represent.”
The committee also heard from landowner and local farmer Colin Appleton, who also spoke about problems with anti-social behaviour at the barn. During his representation, Mr Appleton presented the committee with hypodermic needles he said had been discarded there.
Arguments from supporters (no objections had been put forward) won the backing of several councillors, but some felt there was a danger of setting a precedent by allowing building on an agricultural site within the national park.
Meanwhile Tony Rowell (Green – Lewes Priory) asked why the barn could not simply be demolished without building a home in its place.
Cllr Rowell said: “It is an encroachment, everybody has said that. With all you have been saying about the anti-social behaviour, I think just tear the barn down. Just get rid of it
“Why do we have to build on that space? You don’t have to have a barn there.
“It is just the ability to use the fact there is a barn there, to then put a residential property on there, which doesn’t seem to be what we are supposed to be doing in the national park.”
Ultimately however, the committee felt the development would improve and better preserve the area, therefore supporting the statutory objectives of the South Downs National Park Authority.
Cllr Tom Jones (Con. – Ditchling and Westmeston) said: “It is a barn which doesn’t seem to be serving any purpose.
“With regard to precedents, you can only look at what is in front of you. If next week another application came through which is very similar, then you can’t compare it with what has gone.
“My feeling, based on what is in front of me, is to go against the officers’ recommendation [and grant planning permission].”