The South Downs Society – the Friends group for the national park – has urged the Park Authority to refuse a planning application submitted to it for the “conversion and alteration of an existing building (in Telscombe) to create two dwellings and one holiday cottage”.
What this wording does not make clear is that it involves the closure of a much-loved youth hostel providing low cost accommodation close to the South Downs Way, where such provision is already in limited supply. Closure would work against one of the aims of national park designation – the opportunity to understand and enjoy the park’s special qualities.
The National Park Authority has drawn up its own policy for “sustainable tourism and the visitor economy” on which it has recently consulted the public as part of its local plan: “Visitor accommodation will be controlled and retained as such, unless it can be demonstrated that it is financially unviable… Evidence of a robust marketing campaign of… at least 24 months for accommodation located close to a… long distance footpath or outside of settlement boundaries, will be required that clearly demonstrates that there is no market demand for the premises.”
The applicant has not demonstrated any lack of demand for the accommodation, without which conversion to residential use should not be permitted, and the Society has urged that the application be refused on this basis. As it stands, the application may be left for Lewes District Council to determine but, because of the potential implications for the public’s enjoyment of the national park, we would hope that the Park Authority itself will make the decision.
South Downs Society