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Started life as a ‘chalet bungalow.’

Bachelor’s Bump pile recommended for planning permission, despite ineligibility

In February the story was that developers up at Martineau Lane/Mill Lane were cocking a snook at the planners of Hastings Borough Council (HBC). Now the Council’s planners are recommending approval of the retrospective application despite the previous one. It looks like unconditional surrender or indulgence by the Council. The Planning Committee meets online on Wednesday 7 April. Bernard McGinley compares cases, often using their last three numbers.

A big house on the edge of town, case HS/FA/20/00884 (‘884’) was reported here recently. The application was made after the building was built, key features having been refused planning permission.

The story-in-short began with application HS/FA/17/00468, for a two-storey ‘chalet style’ detached dwelling. This was approved ‘despite many objections (including the alleged quadrupling of the buildable site from a previous permission, and the effect on the adjoining Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – AONB)’.

Then a Variation of Condition was applied for  HS/FA/18/00267. The variation was to amend 468 by converting the garage to a games room with windows, making a three-floor house, and adding 14-15% (460 square feet) to the property’s floor area. It was refused following consideration of many details from the Local Plan Planning Strategy, Development Management Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and other policies and guidance.

Now the committee report for 884 has recommended full approval, contradicting officers’ previous position.

Precedent

HS/FA/17/00267 would have increased the floor area of the building, and turned a two-storey house into a three-storey house.

The committee report was negative:

The proposal will materially and significantly alter the appearance of the dwelling (from as approved under planning reference HS/FA/17/00468) increasing the scale as to be inappropriate in this sensitive green location. The proposal would fail to protect and enhance the inherent visual qualities and distinctive character of the AONB landscape and the character of the area and I recommend this proposal for refusal. 

The 267 application was duly refused by the Council, which pointed out failures to meet policies of the Hastings Development Management Plan, including:

DM1:  protection and enhancement of local character 

EN7:  conservation and enhancement of landscape (including the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty [AONB]).  

Following the refusal in May 2018, the developer carried on to build what he wanted. Now we have the present case (884), with the planners’ recommendation ‘Grant Full Planning Permission’. Despite the formal finding that the earlier case did not comply with the policies of the Development Plan in accordance with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, now it somehow does.  

The report ignores the problem, and it also ignores the question of the  retrospective nature of this and other applications. Unauthorised excavations and unauthorised windows are also involved.

Games room and windows

The applicant in a comment for 884 (6 February 2021, p2) stated: 

The games room and 2 windows were put in as asked for by the Planners and patterned brickwork will probably be added. 

The 884 committee report does not discuss or mention planners’ alleged involvement with the applicant in this way. Is it false or true? The applicant in case 468 has a Document letter (14 July 2017) stating:

I have photographic and written evidence that everything I have done in the Lane has been done after discussion with the Council.

Above all the current live report does not explain why the grounds for refusing 267 no longer apply. This reflects on the professionalism of the planning department, who give the appearance of indulging the application for reasons unknown. The proposals which once failed to comply with the policies of the Development Plan now apparently do. 

Not only, but also

In the beginning it was to be a slightly blingy bungalow. Planning application  HS/FA/09/00240 was for a three-bedroom house on the site. The building’s designer stated:

the development will have little impact on the surroundings. 

The applicant even made a schmaltzy clarification statement:

We are putting in plans to build a chalet bungalow for ourselves in our back garden.

The Mill Lane ‘chalet bungalow’ was approved with conditions, including one to restrict Permitted Development Rights (PDR) because of the sensitivity of the site. Soon there was an application to reinstate the PDR that usually accompany such an application. This became case HS/FA/09/00618.

Appeal dismissed  

The 618 application against the removal of those Development Rights was refused. The Council’s refusal was based on Policies DG1, L2 and L3 of the Hastings Local Plan 2004. 

Then the applicant decided to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate: case ref APP/B1415/A/10/2126714. The appeal was dismissed. The decision is in the Documents for 618.

The inspector’s final bullets were these:

        • The application sought planning permission for a new 3 bedroom detached chalet bungalow — residential, without complying with a condition attached to planning permission Ref HS/FA/09/000240, dated 25 June 2009. 
        • The condition in dispute is No 15 which states that:  Nothwithstanding the conditions of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 or any order revoking and re-enacting that Order with or without modification, no additional windows shall be installed, no extensions to the property shall take place, and no outbuildings shall be erected within the curtilage of the building without the grant of an additional planning permission. 
        • The reason given for the condition is: To enable the Local Planning Authority to control future development of this site having regard to its sensitive location at the edge of the urban area and to protect the amenities of local residents.   

Par 5 of the Appeal decision went on to state:

A particular scale and mass of bungalow has been considered and allowed and an increase in scale or mass through the use of permitted development rights or the erection of outbuildings in the curtilage should in this case be subject to further express authorisation from the local planning authority, 

Formal decisions:  a cumulative summary

As well as the Inspector’s appeal decision (see above) protecting this sensitive site, there are others.

240 for a ‘chalet bungalow’ was approved but Condition 15 was clear:

 . . .  no additional windows shall be installed, no extensions to the property shall take place, and no outbuildings shall be erected . . . without the grant of an additional planning permission. 

618 was refused regarding the removal of the applicant’s PDR, citing Policy DG1 (including ‘suitability in scale, massing, design, appearance, materials, layout and siting’), and others.

267 was refused because of Policies DM1 and EN7 (‘to protect and enhance the inherent visual qualities and distinctive character of the AONB landscape’).

468 was approved, but with conditions on visual amenity and the AONB (which included a small part of the application site).

That is a lot of official negative finding.

Retrospective: only once

In March 2018 the applicant’s architect wrote of application 267 that 

. . . the structural engineer needed to have all the external walls taken down to the same foundation level . . . the applicant wishes to insert an additional window at lower ground floor level

This was the effective date of the additional windows. Application 267 followed, and was refused on 21 May 2018, always a retrospective application.

The law and official advice are clear that 

A person who has undertaken unauthorised development has only one opportunity to obtain planning permission after the event.  

The present case (884) is an application too far, a breach that looks like bait and switch. Concern is widespread that an application that was repeatedly unacceptable a short while ago is now suddenly hunky dory, supposedly, according to the planning officers’ report for 884. The report does not engage with the site or its planning history.  267 is hardly mentioned, and the retrospective aspects of 884 are undiscussed. What started as permission for a chalet bungalow is now about a (euphemised) ‘two to three storey detached dwelling’. 

There are many means to prevent a new development from domineering its country location. The current Development Management Plan’s Focus Area 13, Hastings Country Park, is ‘slightly more than the Country Park’ and includes all the present site and all of the top, eastbound leg of Mill Lane. 

Para 6.307 declares: 

This is an area where the natural  environment is of paramount importance. That means maintaining the unspoilt character of the place for those who visit and live there, but more importantly, preserving the rare and sensitive habitats for the park’s astonishingly varied flora and fauna. 

Council policies enabling refusal are plentiful: Policy DM1 (height scale and form of development appropriate to location), DM3 (loss of amenity), DM5 (land instability), EN1 (conservation including of settings), EN7 (conservation and enhancement of landscape), EN8 (‘Private open spaces . . . will be protected from development which would lead to loss of their open character, biodiversity or accessibility’), FA5 (strategic policy for Eastern Area), HN8 (biodiversity and green space), HN9 (areas of landscape value), and other criteria, including the NPPF.

Consistency: scarce

The 884 committee report (p7) comments on the unauthorised excavations:

in light of the evidence provided by the applicant, which demonstrates why the removal of the bank was necessary, another refusal on this matter cannot be justified. 

This is cart-before-horse. The history demonstrates that the removal of the bank was ‘necessary’ primarily to achieve the basement-room-and-windows. The unauthorised reconfiguration of the traffic area provides a veneer of justification for this. Planning officers take the offered explanation at face value, but needn’t.     

The document also ducks the car parking issue. The proposals in 468 (committee report, section 5 h)) were endorsed as complying with Policy DM4 and supplementary (‘SPD’) guidance. The ‘vehicle path analysisof the current application is a smudgy drawing of an unproposed mini-roundabout with a large centre. The detail ‘Line of Pathway requested by [HBC]’ also requires explanation.  

Other suggested bases for approval are obliquely discussed in the report, while relevant concerns are omitted. To show their commitment to high standards, planning officers state cringingly in paragraph 5 l) of their report:

the erection of inappropriate fencing on the boundaries with this could harm the rural character of the area. 

There’s a Pharisaical flavour about this — of straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. Meanwhile the back-garden family house has been on sale (through PCM) at £1m+, without planning permission. 

HBC has long had a reputation for being helpful to developers. (See the Archery Ground or the 2014 Bahcheli Report or 32-33 White Rock.) What this often means in practice is disregard of previous decisions and of planning law and guidance. Unsurprisingly, such concessions encourage others to believe their applications will be found favour with. This is hardly good practice. The rule-flouting Bunker at Rocklands is an obvious precedent, making this one (884) ‘Son of Bunker’. 

As is well known, intentional unauthorised development is a material consideration, and this case (884) is a second retrospective application. The Councillors’ decision is awaited with interest.

 

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Posted 12:23 Monday, Apr 5, 2021 In: Home Ground

9 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Francis Sheppard

    Great piece by HOT and contribution particularly by Mr McGinley. The people of Hastings would do well to support this news channel. Covid 19 has become a godsend for the ruthless and selfish individuals and corporations to get their own way while others are distracted by the pandemic. People should remember this when going to cast their votes that there is a democratic way to remove those who are not serving the people of Hastings as they should
    do.

    Comment by Francis Sheppard — Monday, Apr 12, 2021 @ 09:56

  2. ken davis

    These controversial matters will continue to arise all the time that planning policy is so vague and thus open to interpretation. Another factor is that ever since the introduction of up-front fees into planning meaningful dialogue between applicants and the planners has become impossible which inevitably leads to confrontation. Add to that council officers making decisions about design when they have no relevant training or experience in such matters and you have an explosive mix. Clarity, dialogue and some positive approaches to development are urgently required if this sort of farce is to end.

    Comment by ken davis — Thursday, Apr 8, 2021 @ 08:27

  3. Sunbear

    Mr hill
    You would do better having spelling and grammar lessons than building gross vulgar piles of stones. People will only despise you for your lack of taste and being utterly uncivilised. Mr McGinley is right as usual.

    Comment by Sunbear — Thursday, Apr 8, 2021 @ 01:29

  4. Bernard McGinley

    Update: 7 April

    The Planning Committee reached an unexpected decision tonight and voted to REFUSE planning permission for application HS/FA/20/00884.

    After briefing by officers the discussion by members ranged over aspects of the case, such as the effects on the AONB, the necessity supposedly shown by the Vehicle Path Analysis document for rearranging the site, and the unsatisfactoriness of retrospective applications. Then with Cllrs Davies and Patmore to the fore, it moved towards a consensus on Refusal (and not deferral).

    The differences between the case under discussion and refused application HS/FA/18/00267 were examined. In the end, HBC Policies DM1 (including the importance of visual impact) and EN7 (conservation and enhancement of landscape) were again found not to have been complied with, as in 2018.

    The vote was proposed by Cllr Foster and seconded by Cllr Patmore. Those For were Cllrs Bacon, O’Callaghan, Cox, Marlow-Eastwood, Davies and Scott. The Chair, Cllr Roberts, voted Against. Cllr Bishop, the ward councillor, abstained. The Refusal was carried 8 – 1 therefore.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Wednesday, Apr 7, 2021 @ 22:24

  5. 1066lover

    This is yet another sad reflection of the weakness of the planning committee. It’s probably true to say that anyone who lowers themselves to such cheap abuse of those who object has lost the argument.

    Comment by 1066lover — Wednesday, Apr 7, 2021 @ 09:11

  6. Mrs More

    More great planning research by H.O.T via Mr McGinley, thank you. So everyone in the borough of Hastings can build an ugly multi storey bunker block in their back garden without prior permission then flog it off for a million – who knew?! A depressing read for anyone who cares about this town & its planning – obv not HBC. It is impossible to summon up sympathy for the ‘developer’… Property speculator Danny’s comments arrive a few days late from April 1st – only fools & horses in this wild west town hey?

    Comment by Mrs More — Tuesday, Apr 6, 2021 @ 23:00

  7. Bernard McGinley

    Don’t be too glad Danny, because permission hasn’t been granted. That’s what the article was about. You haven’t read it too closely, or understood that developers can’t just do what they like. The repetition of ‘pick on’ was very funny, but so was the whole comment and the way it ‘went on’. Try dealing with the issues in future.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Tuesday, Apr 6, 2021 @ 13:33

  8. Danny hill

    People have nothing better to do with there time than to try a pick on a developer . Disgusting the way you have gone on . You need to realise life is evolving all the time, things change family’s get bigger . Glad planning has been granted, goes to show what a waste of time of this s**t is . Go a pick on some one else you pathetic bunch of bullies .

    Get a life u goons .

    Comment by Danny hill — Monday, Apr 5, 2021 @ 23:19

  9. Lesley Turnbull

    Bernard an excellent article explaining a complicated sequence of events in a totally clear way. This is an appalling state of affairs and I will be very interested to see if the Planning Committee do as they’re told by the officers or if they have the integrity and courage to refuse this application. I fear for any semblance of an independent and objective decision on the Bulverhythe application if this goes through on the nod.

    Comment by Lesley Turnbull — Monday, Apr 5, 2021 @ 18:52

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