A major housing development in Seaford has been given the go ahead by Lewes planners this week.
On Wednesday (October 30), Lewes District Council planners unanimously approved proposals to build 183 homes at the former Newlands School site in Eastbourne Road, Seaford.
The scheme was split across two applications; with the first a reserved matters application for the majority of the homes and the second a full application covering both the demolition of the former school building and giving options on what to do with its former playing fields.
As part of its decision, the committee opted not to create a football pitch on the site, choosing instead to make the land into open park space and to take a £350,000 contribution for an off-site playing field from developers Bellway Homes.
This option had been the approach favoured by Seaford Town Council, which hopes to use the funding to develop a football academy on an as-yet-unknown site elsewhere in the town.
This view was shared by several committee members, including Newhaven South councillor Graham Amy (Lib Dem), who said: “I think to have a park land in the middle of an estate like this, in Seaford, is something to be quite proud of.
“There is so much you can do with an area like that and I say that as a chairman of a nature reserve. There is so much potential in there.
“[Seaford Town Council] would appear to be quite positive about finding land around Seaford and the potential for compulsory purchase.”
The alternative option would have seen a junior-sized 9v9 football pitch built on the green space instead. This itself came in place of an full-sized football pitch with parking and changing rooms, which had been agreed as part of the original outline planning application.
However, all three options had seen objections raised by Sport England due to the size of the pitches proposed.
In a late representation circulated at the meeting, a spokesman for Sport England said: “The proposal does not substantially address the comments previously set out, in fact they appear to have taken a further backward step in that what is now proposed is a smaller football pitch compared to the undersized adult football pitch we previously objected to.
“Having objected to the previous proposals for an undersized adult football pitch with changing rooms and car parking, I fail to see how a smaller undersized youth pitch with no changing rooms or car parking is any better.”
Sport England had also raised concerns about the contribution for an off-site playing field, saying it would need more information about the proposals before withdrawing its objection.
As a result, the government body said it would want the application referred to the secretary of state should it be approved without addressing its concerns.
Concerns had also been raised about the number of affordable housing on the site, which had fallen from 40 per cent at the outline stage to 25 per cent.
Developers said this reduction was due to the overall viability of the scheme and had originally proposed a mix of just 8 per cent, before further negotiation with both Lewes District Council and Seaford Town Council led to the final figure.
However developers said the final figure of 25 per cent would only be possible if work could begin during the next year.
It would also be contingent on the former school building being demolished and replaced with 21 new build flats as laid out in the application, the committee heard.
This saw some criticism from several committee members, including East Saltdean and Telscombe Cliff councillor Laurence O’Connor (Lab).
He said: “I am not happy, clearly, with the 25 per cent affordable housing. I don’t think anybody can be happy with that when the policy of this council is generally 40 per cent.
“It is as it is though and I note Seaford Town Council have worked very hard on this, so well done to them for their pragmatic view on it. It is disappointing but it is pragmatic.”
Cllr O’Connor also raised concerns about the views of Sport England and whether its objections could see the proposals delayed and the affordable housing figure further reduced.
Despite these concerns, both applications were unanimously approved by the committee following further discussion.
Due to the objections from Sport England, the council is to refer the applications to the Government for further consideration.
A final decision notice would not be issued until this process is concluded and a legal agreement reached between the council and Bellway Homes.
Following an extended discussion, the majority of the committee opted not to reconsider the applications after this process concludes and instead referred it to the planning committee’s chairman and officers.
This decision was criticised by some committee members, however, with Cllr Steve Saunders (Ind, Newhaven North) and others describing it as not being “open and transparent.”