Proposed layout of the redevelopment of the Ashdown House site

St Leonards 151 homes and new supermarket bid - this is what planning committee decided

A major redevelopment project in St Leonards has been given the thumbs up from councillors.

By Huw Oxburgh, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 1:23 pm

On Wednesday (January 19), Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee granted planning permission to a major mixed use development on land between Sedlescombe Road North and Harrow Lane

The site, which is currently occupied by a recently-vacated office block known as Ashdown House, is to be redeveloped to include 151 new homes, a community centre and a new supermarket building. 

Among those to speak in favour of the proposals was Ashdown ward councillor Mike Edwards (Con), who said: “As a layman I apply my own tests when looking at a new application. So, I ask various questions. 

“For example, number one, do we need more housing in this area? Well, I think clearly in this borough we do need more housing, that has been well established. We have not been keeping up with the momentum of housing development in the Hastings and St Leonards area.

“Question two; is this a suitable site for development? Well as we have been told, this is an empty brownfield site. It has been cordoned off for many months. The [existing] building was originally built in the 60s and it is now a redundant, large, obsolete building. I suspect demolition is probably the best course of action for it.”

He added: “All in all, having posed the questions to myself, I have answered in the affirmative, so I can say I would like to see this proceed and it has my support in the ward. I hope they crack on with it as soon as possible.”

This view was shared by most of the committee, although there were some objections raised by  Sorrell Marlow-Eastwood (Con), who also represents Ashdown ward, around the total number of houses proposed.

While some other concerns had also been raised around the scheme’s conflicts with local planning policies, the committee ultimately concluded that the scheme’s benefits would outweigh its drawbacks.

Phil Scott (Lab, Wishing Tree) said: “This is a site which has held government buildings since the 60s, it has served the area well already by offering employment to thousands of people. 

“It is time now for that to go. We now see an application coming forward for homes which are desperately needed in the area. And we are seeing some infrastructure attached to this particular development, which is very welcome.

“Maybe it is not enough for some. I think it is just about enough for me. I would have preferred to have seen some form of pharmacy/medical centre with a GP surgery attached to it, to service the wider area. 

“That is not part of this application, I accept that, but from what I am seeing I am very supportive.”

The scheme’s conflicts with local planning policy included its relatively small number of affordable properties (just 17 of the 151 homes). According to the applicants, this is due to the viability of the site being diminished by the high cost of demolition and other site constraints. 

The 17 affordable homes are to be rented flats, which are to be taken on by a registered social housing provider. This provider will also take ownership of the community centre building.

In addition, the applicants are offering financial contributions towards key infrastructure of more than £183,000.

Despite the size of the proposals, the public response to the scheme has been relatively muted. According to the planning report, the council has only received 18 public comments on the proposals. Of these, 14 were objections, one from representatives of the supermarket chain Tesco.

At the meeting, planning officers said a further three comments had come in since publication of the report.

These objectors had raised concerns about the impact of the development on local infrastructure, in particular traffic on Sedlescombe Road North and Harrow Lane. 

Tesco’s concerns related to the supermarket building and the planning policies surrounding out of town stores.

For further information on the proposals see application reference number HS/FA/21/00003 on the Hastings Borough Council website.

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