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Image of hedgerow after clearance and development as previously shown in HOT

Image of hedgerow after clearance and development as previously shown in HOT

Rocklands: Beyond a boundary

The controversies over the treatment of Rocklands Caravan Park by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) and the various effects on the Country Park and its users all show no signs of lessening soon.  Chris Hurrell of Save Ecclesbourne Glen (SEG) takes a closer look.

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey

Where wealth accumulates and men decay.

                                                                                Oliver Goldsmith

In the summer of 2012, permission was refused for the building of a new holiday home in Rocklands Caravan Park. The same application was re-submitted and permission was inexplicably granted in early 2013. The new building known as ‘the Bunker’ by some local residents has been very controversial, and it dominates views from the East Hill and Country Park. The Bunker was built far larger than the approved plans. Following a well supported local campaign, HBC refused permission for the building and enforcement action was taken to have the building removed. Following an appeal, a Planning Inspector granted permission for the building to remain.  

In the last few months it has emerged that part of the land needed for the building of the Bunker is not owned by Rocklands, but is on HBC-owned land within the Country Park.  

Plans produced by HBC for the planning committee confirm that land owned by HBC and in our Country Park is now within the grounds of Rocklands.

HBC plans

HBC plans

Rocklands’ own planning consultant has admitted in a public document that Rocklands have enclosed behind their fence land that is in the Country Park and owned by HBC:

The area where the holly has been planted is within the fenced area of Rocklands Caravan Park although it appears to be beyond the legal boundary. I am advised that the applicant has used this land for in excess of 20 years as did the previous owner of the caravan park.  

This document admits that the area where Rocklands have planted holly sticks is outside the Rocklands boundary.  That is actually HBC land!

Previously the area concerned was simply a very thickly planted hedgerow.  The claim of over 20 years usage is without meaning and merely an attempt to claim the land from its legitimate owners the people of Hastings. Images from 2009 show how thick the hedgerows were before Rocklands destroyed them to construct the Bunker. 

Prior to the Bunker being built, this strip of HBC-owned land had a mature hedgerow at least 2 to 3 metres thick. During construction Rocklands destroyed this ancient hedgerow in October 2013, an offence under hedgerow regulations and a breach of planning conditions. It now emerges that this was also destruction of HBC property.  

Prior to this Rocklands were not using the land as they claim.  The land in question was simply a heavily planted boundary between the Country Park and the caravan site.  

A strip of land cleared by Rocklands to develop the Bunker is on HBC land and is within the Old Town Conservation Area. Rocklands have also carried out clearances and plantings in the Old Town Conservation Area without giving proper notice to HBC.  (All trees and shrubs with branches 75mm or more in diameter at 1.5 metres above ground level are protected from felling, lopping and pruning. Six weeks’ written notice must be provided to the Borough Council’s Tree Officer in each instance during which time a Tree Preservation Order may be served.)

At its closest point the Bunker is about a metre from the legal boundary. It is doubtful whether the Bunker could have been constructed at its current size within the legal boundary whilst retaining the old hedgerow. The hedgerow was destroyed to make room for the Bunker. There is no space on Rocklands land to screen the Bunker. There are rules concerning how close a new building can be to the borders of the land.  The Bunker is within inches of the border.  This should never have been allowed.  

This image shows the extent of the hedgerow screening the site.  This hedgerow was on HBC land and was removed to build the Bunker:

This image shows the extent of the hedgerow screening the site.  This hedgerow was on HBC land and was removed to build the Bunker.

All of the proposed replacement screening for the Bunker is planted on HBC land.  The tiny holly whips were all planted without seeking permission from HBC or permission from Historic England to plant on a scheduled monument.  

HBC have refused to plant any screening on HBC land. It is now clear that the very inadequate screening proposed by Rocklands is all on HBC land. It is unclear who will be responsible for maintaining such screening.

Despite being aware of this encroachment, the planning committee decided to discharge the completely inadequate planting scheme. It is uncertain whether the planting conditions imposed by the Planning Inspector carry any weight as all of the screening proposed by Rocklands is on HBC land.  

HBC did not reveal that the development was partly on HBC land to the Planning Inspector at the appeal against enforcement. The Inspector was unaware that Rocklands had no land available to plant screening on and that any screening would need to be on HBC land. The Inspector was also unaware that part of the development was in a Conservation Area.  

All planning applications from Rocklands state that the land is owned by Rocklands, and use ownership Certificate A, asserting [wrongly] sole ownership of the land involved. HBC’s ownership goes repeatedly unmentioned in all planning applications in the area of the Bunker. An application is not valid, and therefore cannot be determined by the local planning authority, unless the relevant certificate has been completed.   

It is an offence to complete a false or misleading certificate, either knowingly or recklessly, with a maximum fine of up to £5,000.  

Despite being aware of this encroachment onto HBC land, HBC have taken no action whatsoever against Rocklands. Rocklands have not only stolen the views from the public but have taken land from our Country Park!  What action will HBC now take to reclaim this land from Rocklands?  This land is our land and is part of the Country Park.  

Since the land is owned by HBC, will HBC now plant effective screening on it?

Second Image of hedgerow after clearance and development as previously shown in Hastings Observer

Second Image of hedgerow after clearance and development as previously shown in Hastings Observer

SEG have raised a series of questions in early June which have yet to be answered by HBC:

Q1.   How long have HBC been aware of this land grab?

Q2, Will HBC be taking any action against Rocklands to reclaim this land as part of our Country Park?

The hedgerow that was on this land was the property of HBC and was willfully destroyed by Rocklands in 2013.  

Q3.   Will HBC be taking any action against Rocklands for this destruction of HBC property?

Q4.   Will HBC now replant the hedgerow to its previous dimensions on this land which is owned by them?

Q5.   What are the legal implications of carrying out unauthorised developments on land owned by HBC?

Q6.   Will HBC be taking any action?

 

Posted 06:30 Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 In: Home Ground

6 Comments


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. Bea

    If you send in a question with “Freedom of Information request” at the beginning they are obliged to answer and can’t charge you. They have a month to reply, I think, and usually wait til the last minute. But still worth doing.

    Comment by Bea — Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 @ 17:03

  2. Ms.Doubtfire

    A colleague has just asked HBC some questions about tree works on a development site which does not have planning consent for such works – they have been told they will be charged a fee of £120 in order to get answers to this!! ’nuff said.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Thursday, Oct 12, 2017 @ 08:15

  3. Chandra Masoliver

    Thank you and congratulations to Chris Hurrell and all in SEG for your persistent detective work

    Comment by Chandra Masoliver — Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 @ 20:59

  4. John Faulkner

    Has HOT asked for an explanation from HBC?

    Comment by John Faulkner — Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 @ 20:38

  5. Andy Ammo

    It’s disappointing – but not surprising – that in over 4 months the Council has not explained itself about this monumental cockup. Do they think it doesn’t matter? Or are they just too busy with their other mistakes?

    We’d like an explanation, HBC.

    Comment by Andy Ammo — Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 @ 15:58

  6. Ms.Doubtfire

    I think we are all aware the proprietors of this caravan park appear to be in a position to carry out without restraint, whatever works they wish whether it is on their land or not, whether they have planning consent or not. Hastings Borough Council appears disinclined to take action against this enterprise and when they do, it is perceived to be half hearted. Why is this? There are far too many unanswered questions here.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 @ 12:52

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