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The unauthorised Bunker, a blot on Ecclesbourne Glen and the Country Park (photo: Richard Alfred Moye/Ram Photographic).

Bunker owner back with new application

The two-storey ‘Bunker’ in Hastings Country Park is the subject of a new planning application, for which comments and objections close on 23 January. Bernard McGinley provides an update on this bone of  contention, while Bob Okines reports on an awareness-raising event in Priory Meadow.

As many readers know, Hastings Country Park recently had a new building sprout in its midst. Given its prominent location at the southern edge of Rocklands Caravan Park, the so-called Bunker can be seen from afar.

To its credit, the planning committee of Hastings Borough Council (HBC) unanimously refused ‘retrospective’ permission in June 2014 for the Bunker. Now the developers are trying again, after changing the balcony (a bit).

In June 2014 (under planning ref HS/FA/14/00406), the planning committee’s recommendation was for acceptance of the “minor amendment showing change of ground floor plan, additional & altered window positions, & extended balcony. (Retrospective).”

Photo: Bob Okines.

How the developers could have got so much wrong (such as height, bulk, ‘footprint’, orientation) – and why those discrepancies were ‘minor’ – were not explained.  All the committee members rejected the advice of the officers.

Now the balcony is to be reduced “to the dimensions permitted by HS/FA/12/00952.”  But for many this is insufficient and the building should be demolished, because it does not have planning permission, and sets an alarming precedent.  The feeling is widespread that its being built so flagrantly ‘out’ is an insult to the planning system (and the borough’s residents). It is hard to believe that these errors were accidental.

While balcony reduction is in the headline of the application, paragraph 4.1 v) of the developer’s planning statement of 19 December 2014 states that among the changes sought is: “Increase overall height of the building from 5.6m as approved by HS/FA/12/00952 to 6.2m.

(That’s 20 feet and 4 inches in old measure, where there used to be an insignificant well-screened bungalow. Given the slope and the new massing, the domineering of the site is much worse.)

Complaints and recriminations flew after last summer’s controversy. The vice chair of the planning committee spoke of “seeing whether the original permission can be revoked.” The case also involves related issues, including the cavalier removal of trees and hedges, the future of Ecclesbourne Glen in the Country Park, the probable causes of the landslip there, and the council’s use of ‘delegated powers’.

Photo: Bob Okines.

In October, in response to these concerns, HBC published a Procedural Review (also known as ‘the Bahcheli Report’). This was mildly critical of some aspects of the council’s performance in the matter. A particular shortcoming was that the impact of the proposed [already built] development on a Conservation Area was not properly assessed — though this was a statutory obligation, and had been crucial in the rejection of a previous application (HS/FA/12/00471).  The setting of the Bunker affects the Old Town Conservation Area that extends across East Hill to the site.

Mrs Bahcheli, who in October was ‘an independent expert’, was by December the case officer for this application. The clear conflict of interest was disregarded.  (HBC’s record on caravan site licensing matters was dealt with in a separate report by another independent expert, RH Environmental Ltd.)

Councillors John Hodges and Dawn Poole of Old Town ward have been among those active in opposing the proposed [already built] building. The site lies within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It also abuts a Statutory Ancient Monument, a local nature reserve, a Special Area for Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest — none of which, so far, seems to have counted for very much.

Spreading the word

Save Ecclesbourne Glen makes an impact in Priory Meadow (photo: Nick Terdre).

The Save Ecclesbourne Glen group had a stall to publicise the issue at Priory Meadow shopping centre on Saturday 10 January. “The awareness event was a resounding success,” says Bob Okines. “Many, many people stopped to look at the display and many were totally shocked by the photos and even more shocked when we explained how the building had been built without planning permission. It is almost unbelievable that the authorities have given them a second chance at a retrospective planning application.”

 

When the new application, HS/FA/14/01036, will go to committee has not yet been announced. Opinions on it can be sent to the Town Hall until 23 January or emailed from here.

The council’s planning case file is here.

For more on this strange case, see:

HBC’s Bahcheli Report (21 October 2014).

Comments on the Bahcheli Report by the Save Ecclesbourne Glen group.

HBC’s Cabinet Report (1 December 2014, Agenda Item 5):

For some, approval of the Bunker would open up the Barley Lane area to easier future development. Others emphasise the damage to the Country Park or the lamentable reputation of the HBC planning department.

Other HOT reports on the imbroglio are here: Country Park angerCountry Park still threatened and Pig’s ear causes sty in eye.

Posted 18:19 Friday, Jan 16, 2015 In: Home Ground

10 Comments

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  1. paddy stephenson

    Another blot on our landscape is looming – Warren Cottage sold off by HBC – now plans submitted for something which looks very much like a modern three bedroomed house on a suburban estate…nothing wrong with three bedroomed houses on suburban estates except that Warren Cottage is in OUR Country park and again, trees and foliage have been hacked down. This pattern of development in the Country Park is becoming a tad too regular.

    Comment by paddy stephenson — Saturday, Feb 14, 2015 @ 16:02

  2. Dan Short

    Hello HOT, Could you guys please refrain from calling this building a bunker? Despite your well founded objections to this misplaced building it is not a bunker and as someone who lives in a modern scandi design building it peeves me. Ta for reading and carry on the good work.

    Comment by Dan Short — Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 @ 16:12

  3. paddy stephenson

    And it has been known for some comments/objections to simply disappear from the planning website…..

    Comment by paddy stephenson — Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 @ 13:54

  4. Sparks

    Thanks for this Andrea, but I’m not so sure. I had an objection refused by HBC Planning Department not so long ago as it had arrived 2mins after 4pm on the Friday deadline date. Surely everyone should keep the objections coming in as much as possible before tomorrow’s-Friday 23rd’s-stated deadline. That way we are sure of a critical impact for the Planning Committee.

    Comment by Sparks — Thursday, Jan 22, 2015 @ 10:10

  5. Andrea Needham

    For anyone reading this article after Jan 23 (the end date for objections to the planning app), it’s worth knowing that the council will continue to accept them until the date the application goes to the planning committee – so don’t not object because you think you’ve missed the date!

    Comment by Andrea Needham — Tuesday, Jan 20, 2015 @ 13:10

  6. Ray Laban

    Quiet clearly an example of a total disregard for both the surroundings and the feelings of concerned residents.This carbuncle appears to have been constructed primarily to allow a far reaching panorama across the beautiful surrounding county park.
    Perhaps the owner / developer will have to hope that no other monstrosities are erected nearby lest they then spoil his view?

    Comment by Ray Laban — Monday, Jan 19, 2015 @ 19:54

  7. Sparks

    Such a great article. Thanks Bernard.

    I totally agree, Paddy. The Bunker HAS TO GO.
    Isn’t it good that this article has received 195 ‘likes’ as I type.

    Will all those who have said they ‘like’ what they’ve read here please NOW-before Friday 23rd- make a written objection to HBC themselves via the above link. It doesn’t have to be long.

    This would really help as the councillors on the Planning Committee would then know that many many people, their constituents indeed, care about the Country Park remaining unspoilt and vote not only against this new application, but also consider razing this bunker.

    It’s VITAL that you do. This could well be a test case for the still unspoilt coast of Southern England

    Comment by Sparks — Monday, Jan 19, 2015 @ 12:44

  8. Richard Heritage

    Great article Bernard.
    You raise the question of how the architects/owners could get the specifications so wrong. Simple – they intended it to be like this in the hope people like us might no t realise what they were up to.

    What irks me also is the thousands of tax payers money has been spent by HBC on several reports about the site and of course hiring this Bahcheli woman as a consultant. Who is now handling the application on behalf of the council. How about the Rockland owners being given a bill for some of this?

    Comment by Richard Heritage — Monday, Jan 19, 2015 @ 08:59

  9. paddy stephenson

    Brilliant article – no ifs and no buts – THIS ILLEGAL EYESORE MUST COME DOWN.

    Comment by paddy stephenson — Sunday, Jan 18, 2015 @ 16:37

  10. Wesley Magoogan

    Bloody good article. The building should indeed be demolished and also the trees re-planted.

    Comment by Wesley Magoogan — Saturday, Jan 17, 2015 @ 17:21

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