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Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

New convent proposals still draw criticism

Amended proposals for redeveloping the convent site at Magdalen Road in St Leonards have not assuaged the concerns of local residents. The application still “proposes serious overdevelopment of an inappropriate location, which would be seriously detrimental to both the natural and historic environment,” in the view of campaigners opposed to the application.

The major change filed on behalf of the developer, Orange Investments, is a reduction in the number of dwelling units from 165 to 135. This appears to represent a reduction in the number of people who would be housed on the convent site from 907 to 836, still more than a 10% increase in the population of Central St Leonards, campaigner Maureen Jarvis points out. And this is already the most densely populated and deprived ward in East Sussex, she says.

If the development goes ahead it will put further substantial pressure on public services in the area which could result in worse provision for local residents. No assessment has yet been made of the likely increase in demand. Though developers sometimes make a contribution towards the cost of provision of public services created by their projects, in this case the applicant has made it clear it will not do so.

Questions still need to be answered over the status of the application. It has been put to the council – and accepted by them – as an ‘enabling development’: this applies to sites with listed buildings such as the convent site, where income generated from new-build dwellings is needed to cover the cost of repairing the listed buildings. An enabling development is freed from some of the requirements imposed on ordinary developments.

 

Enabling development or not?

But such an application has to follow English Heritage guidelines intended to ensure that the historic value of the site is safeguarded, and the government body has to review whether this is the case. It has however confirmed to Ms Jarvis that in contacts with both the applicant’s agent, Enplan, and the council, it has not been informed that the application is for an enabling development and its assessment has not been sought in this respect.

Moreover, when applying for an enabling development the applicant has to show that there is a financial case for it – that the cost of repairing the listed building(s) exceeds their value once repaired. Yet Enplan has presented different financial cases to the council and English Heritage.

Again, the case for an enabling development can only be resorted to when various other avenues have been explored, such as pursuing grant funding possibilities. This has not happened.

Local residents concerned about the convent site application have until 13 April to lodge comments or objections with the council – this can be done directly on the council website here.

Anyone wishing to be kept informed about the campaign against the application can register their interest with Kat Lee-Ryan (katdogleeryan@yahoo.com).

Posted 18:22 Monday, Apr 2, 2012 In: Home Ground