Redevelopment of garden centre near Hailsham unanimously rejected

Proposals to build housing in place of a garden centre in Lower Dicker have been refused by Wealden planners.

On Thursday (October 7), Wealden District Council’s planning committee south considered an outline application to demolish the Blackbrooks Garden Centre in Eastbourne Road and build up to 45 homes in its place..

While recommended for approval by planning officers, the committee concluded that  the site’s location, which lies outside of the village’s development boundary, made it unsuitable for housing.

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This argument was summed up by ward councillor David White (Independent, who said: “I find it difficult to imagine a site less suited for residential development than the Blackbrooks Garden Centre. 

Entrance to the garden centre site (Photo from Google Maps Street VIew)

“If approved, a development of 45 residential properties in this location will represent an isolated enclave remote from all essential services that residents rely upon — the schools, the shops, the healthcare and business facilities — and completely dependent on the motorcar.

“There are no schools or healthcare facilities, no local food shops, no pubs, cafes or restaurants within walking distance or for that matter a reasonable travelling distance.”

Officers acknowledged that the site fell outside of the development and as a result was against local planning policy.

However, they also warned the council’s lack of a five-year supply of housing resulted in a tilted balance in favour of development, which could see an objection on these grounds overturned. 

Officers also pointed to conditions intended to improve access and sustainable transport to the site, saying this would make such an argument more difficult to sustain.

These included: new footpaths into the site; works to create a new access point at the site’s junction with the A22; and a financial contribution towards an additional bus service between Uckfield and Eastbourne.

These conditions had been suggested by East Sussex Highways, in light of its concerns.

Objections had been raised by Wealden District Council’s own economic development team, due to the loss of the garden centre. 

Developers, however, had argued the current centre — which changed hands in 2019 — would require significant investment to bring it up to scratch. The cost of this investment would outstrip the value of the site, developers said. 

Ultimately, the site’s location and reliance on cars proved to be the deciding factor, with the committee unanimously deciding to refuse the scheme.

For further information on the proposals see application reference WD/2021/0999/MAO on the Wealden District Council website.