Plans to convert former Herstmonceux pub

A former village pub could be set for redevelopment, if proposals are given the go ahead by Wealden planners next week.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 11:15 am

On Wednesday (January 13), Wealden District Council planners are set to consider an application to convert The Woolpack Inn in Herstmonceux into a mix of flats and commercial floorspace, as well as build five houses on the surrounding land. 

While the loss of a pub from the site is not certain – the proposals would see part of the building remain as a commercial premises after all – planning officers say it is a possibility if the application is approved. 

However, planning officers say the potential loss of the pub (last occupied in January 2019) is not grounds to oppose the application, largely due to the district’s lack of a five-year supply of housing.

In a report to be considered by the committee, a council planning officer said: “The council does not have a five-year housing land supply and therefore the application must be determined in accordance with the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

“For the reasons set out, it is considered that the flexible uses proposed for the ground floor of the pub, which includes the possibility of the loss of the pub, could not be resisted.

“This is due to a combination of the lack of adopted Local Plan policies to formally test the loss of the public house use, there being another pub in the village and the proposed alternatives used would enable services to be provided and maintain employment opportunities.”

As part of the proposals, the upper floors of the existing pub building would be converted into three one-bedroom flats with a “flexible” commercial space on the ground floor. 

A storage building and single-storey function room used by the pub would be demolished in order to create space for the five new houses.

New private parking spaces are to be created for the houses, with most of the spaces to be accessed via the public car park that adjoins the site. 

The proposals have seen only limited opposition locally (there was only one objector), although some concerns have been raised by Herstmonceux Parish Council.

While the parish council does not object to the application in principle, it does consider the scheme to be a “slight overdevelopment” of the site. It also raised concerns around parking and the scale of the proposed new builds.

The proposals are opposed by East Sussex Highways, however, which considers the development would impact on the safety of traffic on West End Road due to a lack of “adequate turning facilities”.

Despite this objection, Wealden planning officers consider that the benefits of the proposed scheme would outweigh the disadvantages.

In the committee report, a council planning officer said: “The development would provide acceptable level of amenity for future occupiers, subject [to] conditions as set out in this report. 

“Impacts on highway safety and parking demand are considered acceptable given the proximity of public car parking, proposed parking, and the availability of public transport options.

“Accordingly, any adverse effects of the proposal are outweighed by the positive aspects of securing a boost to housing land supply on a brownfield site and approval is recommended.”

For further details on the proposals see application reference WD/2019/2239/F on the Wealden District Council planning website.