LETTER: Concerned about proposed variations

LW/16/0574 – Site 2, Newhaven Eastside, The Drove, Newhaven

To the planning committee:

I would like to raise serious concerns about the proposed variations in the above planning application to vary conditions in the original approval of LW/11/0634.

Those members that served on that committee will remember that it was heard at the then Tideway School, Newhaven, in special session, where it was up against another application for a similar site.

They both included supermarkets as part of their proposals and it was decided that the Town could only cope with one such retail outlet and therefore they effectively fought out between them to gain favour with the committee.

The result of a very long meeting was a stalemate and it was therefore decided by casting vote of cllr Davey, the chair.

She was influenced by the fact that the retail partner for the winning application had signed a contract with the developer and that the affordable housing element of that development was more beneficial to the town and district.

The application was given permission, with the caveats which included: the affordable housing element and the 106 contributions to community and recreational infrastructure.

Soon after the application was granted, the retail partner (ASDA) withdrew support and the developer was forced to seek another partner in the scheme. The retailer was the main financial supporter for the 106 contributions and therefore the development stalled.

With no partner having come forward, the developer has been forced to come back to the committee cap-in-hand to ask for withdrawal of the only concessions that the town gained from the potential development.

It is completely hypocritical for officers to recommend that this application is allowed to pass, particularly as it is believed that the developer stands to make money from the retailer’s withdrawal from their contract, which would easily pay for the 106 contributions attached to the original application’s decision and that the town and district so needs the affordable housing promised at the outset.

The financial arguments put forward in defence of the amended affordable housing do not stack up.

New housing recently completed nearby has sold very quickly and the demand for housing here is high.

The small percentage increase on the sale prices quoted would not detract from the potential sales and, in my view, is a smoke screen, designed to falsely add weight to a very weak and unsatisfactory appeal against the original conditions.

If granted, it would send out a very poor message to other potential developers keen to dodge current obligations over affordable housing provision.

The latest Cabinet papers show the results of the Air Quality study and consultation in the town and a major factor in that report shows the impact of traffic on the poor air quality.

The suggested varying of the conditions to provide for yet another traffic study, some minor alterations to the Drove Roundabout and the provision of a bus stop will do nothing to mitigate the inevitable increase in the poor air quality that this new development will cause, whereas the 106 contributions to improvements to recreational and open spaces would have a far more credible and far-reaching affect.

The problems that the town is experiencing regarding traffic infrastructure, is also being experienced in education and health provision and this large-scale development makes no provision for either of these, nor in long-term employment – as it does not contain the originally designed supermarket, as originally promoted in the 2011 application.

This same developer has another adjacent site at the old Parker Pen and has flouted various environmental laws since taking possession of the site and demolishing the buildings there.

His history of flouting rules and regulations and attempting to circumnavigate planning regulations and conditions should not be given credence by this committee.

I urge you to reject this application and re-affirm the perfectly reasonable conditions originally imposed, which protected the housing needs of Newhaven and the district, as well as giving the town the opportunity to develop and maintain the much-needed recreational and open spaces that it is so short of.

Granting permission to vary the conditions originally set will result in the town and district gaining nothing from the development that raised such concern for residents in 2011 and the developer being allowed to ‘play the system’ so-to-speak and to openly flout the constraints of our planning system. A system designed to safeguard communities from unscrupulous developers.

I hope that the committee members make the right choice for both Newhaven and the district and reject this proposal. Accepting it will put almost £1 million pounds back into the pocket of the developers and give nothing back to the people you represent.

Cllr Steve Saunders

Newhaven Valley Ward