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Developer cocks an oversized snook at HBC planners

Up at Bachelor’s Bump in Ore a new planning row is heating up. A retrospective application is seeking approval for works that were previously refused. Locals are angered by what they see as rogue development. The overbearing house is on a laneside slope and the skyline. The Council have yet to decide what to do. Who will prevail? Bernard McGinley reports from the Country Park borders, with apologies for so many numbers.

The live case is HS/FA/20/00884: Erection of a two to three storey detached dwelling (revision to HS/FA/17/00468) (part-retrospective). Land rear of 23 Martineau Lane, Hastings. (Here ‘two to three’ is a process not an estimate. Note also the ‘part-retrospective’.) The site is actually in Mill Lane.

Three cases dominate the story: the present one (‘884’) seeks to revise ‘468’, but there is another case to note: ‘267’ (HS/FA/18/00267, which was refused).

In 2017, application HS/FA/17/00468, to build a two-storey chalet style detached dwelling, 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).

Overstepping

This approval was rapidly followed by application HS/FA/18/00267:

Variation of Condition: 2 (Approved Plans) of planning permission HS/FA/17/00468 – Amendment -alteration to north elevation, additional window at lower ground floor level 

The applicant’s architect proposed an expansion of the lower ground floor garage and conversion of much of it into a ‘games room’, with a new window. This would increase the overall internal floor space by about 15%.

The games room windows are on the lower floor, either side of the nearest corner.

The excavations needed for the ‘games room’ led to concerns about land stability. The HBC ‘delegated authority’ report noted carefully:

This proposal to visually ‘cut’ into the bank and thereby create the appearance of a larger, more urban scale dwelling over three floors on the northern elevation is not considered to be appropriate in this sensitive location at the edge of the AONB. 

In May 2018 application ‘267,’ to enlarge, was refused, for reasons including Council policies DM1 (protection and enhancement of local character), EN7 (inherent visual qualities and distinctive character of the AONB landscape), and DM5 (ground conditions). 

Wider still and wider

Undeterred, the applicant carried on regardless and built the three-storey enlarged house. Now that the villa has been built, the applicant in November 2020 submitted a retrospective application (‘884’) and a geotechnical report. Games room windows have increased from one to two.

In a Comment on the case file the applicant explained:

. . . the alterations that have been done to the property were discussed with the Planners and their input put into practice. The games room and 2 windows were put in as asked for by the Planners and patterned brickwork will probably be added. As far as the bank is concerned this was removed because otherwise vehicles would not be able to turn onto the driveway.

‘Interesting if true’, as a great Victorian sceptic said on reading a church noticeboard. There is no explanation of why what the planners ‘asked for’ did not appear sooner in an amended application, or why the designer in his ‘267’ covering letter of March 2018 stated that

the structural engineer needed to have all of the external walls taken down to the same foundation level.

Presumably the Council report will clarify what ‘their input’ was in this matter. 

The suggestion that excavation of the bank was caused by vehicular needs is misleading. It was caused by the unauthorised expansion of the building, that in turn affected redesign of the driveway. 

Other cases

There have been many efforts by the same applicant to adjust planning possibilities. Application HS/FA/09/00240 was for a three-bedroom ‘chalet bungalow’ on the site. In a letter (and case document) of 12 June 2009, the building’s designer stated:

the development will have little impact on the surroundings 

In a clarification statement the applicant stated:

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

The chalet bungalow was approved but then it was followed up with an application to reinstate the permitted development rights (PDR) that the Council had removed to reflect the sensitive circumstances of the site. In 2010 the Planning Inspector considered the applicant’s Appeal and dismissed it (ref 2126714).

Before that, application HS/FA/08/00598 for a new four-bedroom dwelling was refused planning permission, because the proposal

by reason of its size and siting within the limited plot size, in close proximity to the AONB, would result in a cramped and overdeveloped appearance. 

Landscaping

One objector’s query on ‘240’ went unanswered, on: 

how permission can be granted to the felling of trees which are outside of the applicant’s boundary and on land which does not belong to HBC. The removal of these trees will further the destruction of what was once a pleasant green lane.

Application ‘240’ was approved but not implemented. 

Comparative building bulks of the approved application (red outline, HS/FA/09/00240), refused application (blue outline, HS/FA/08/00598), and the house as built (source: SUPERIMPOSED PAST AND PROPOSED drawing from ‘468’ case file).

The landscaping issues were still important years later, among the many adjustments sought regarding ‘468’. The Council’s statement of Refusal for HS/CD/20/00214 (on hard and soft landscaping) said:

the submitted plans include works which are unauthorised and have been carried out without the correct permissions in place. Specifically these unauthorised works include changes to the topography of the site, with the part removal of the right hand bank and the creation of access steps

The breaches of the bank were a violation of ‘468’. The failure of ‘267’ should have clarified the possibilities but the applicant continued to make the property larger, and damage to the setting of the AONB too.

High windows.

Rogue development

Despite the refusal of ‘267′, the applicant carried on to achieve what he wanted. Now the present retrospective application (‘884’) has been submitted. But the applicant has already made Application ‘267’ which was considered and (like ‘214’) refused. The reasons for refusing it still apply however. 

HBC have a range of powers to use on breaches and deviations. Will they use them? The scope for enforcement is clear, but the inclination is less so. (In the recent controversial case of the Bunker at Rocklands, Councillors ignored plenty, including protection of the Country Park and the clear need for a site visit. The Leader of the Council’s nonsensical view that enforcement-is-harassment caused amazement.)

Residents look to Council members and officers to do better this time, so that No doesn’t mean Yes maybe. As was pointed out regarding Rocklands, intentional unauthorised development is a material consideration, and ‘884’ is a second retrospective application. 

This building (Son of Bunker?) is not what had planning permission, which was ‘468’. A taller building is there, on a bigger footprint, overbearing, and with clear breaches during its construction and after. A proposed chalet bungalow became a two-storey chalet became a hulking three-storey mansion — a hacienda bender, with extra windows. A semi-rural site beside Hastings Country Park has become an outtake of suburbia for now. Reversion of some kind is possible however, if the Council chooses to act. 

In the online case files, the pattern of persistence and determination is discernible, but not one of compliance with planning requirements. Even the site boundaries are a matter of dispute, and the land is said to be susceptible to slippage. Those case histories have an abundance of detail, though sadly nearly all of the Comments on the older applications are now ‘Not Available’. 

Following the Bunker furore, HBC needn’t be surprised that developers are presuming to take them for a soft touch. The house is now on the market at £1m+. The games room is rebadged as a gym, and a dressing room, ‘triple aspect’, and bifold doors are also part of the offer.

Comments on HS/FA/20/00884 can be made online here.

A Planning Committee date has not yet been set. Meetings are scheduled for 3 and 24 March and 7 April.

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Posted 19:52 Thursday, Feb 18, 2021 In: Home Ground

4 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Christopher Hurrell

    The application will be heard by the Planning Committee on wednesday the 7th April.

    The officer’s report recommends approval of the retrospective application. The report to committee brushes over enforcement issues and barely mentions that the works now seeking approval were carried out in breach of the refused application HS/FA/18/00267. Planning Enforcement has capitulated and allowed the developer to carry out works that were explicitly refused permission and are in breach of the permission granted by HS/FA/17/00468 . This sends a
    clear message to developers – do what you like and you will always get retrospective permission.

    The report does not explain why ground 1 of the refusal (harm to the AONB)) are no longer applicable. Application HS/FA/18/00267 was refused :
    “1. The proposal re-contours the visual appearance of the land and would significantly increase the scale of the dwelling and the proportions of the north elevation as to detract from the visual appearance of the area and would therefore fail to comply with policy DM1 of Hastings Development Management Plan which requires development to take into account protecting and enhancing local character and it would fail to comply with Policy EN7 of Hastings Planning Strategy to protect and enhance the inherent visual qualities and
    distinctive character of the AONB landscape.”

    Nothing has changed – the works still breach DM1 and EN7. Despite this the report now recommends approval using the very weak argument that the unauthorised re-contouring works were necessary for car parking. The need for these works has been accepted without question by Planning – it is certain that alternatives could have been found for car parking that did not involve
    re-contouring and construction of a basement room with windows (the real reason the developer breached the permissions in the first place)

    https://hastings.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx.

    Comment by Christopher Hurrell — Monday, Mar 29, 2021 @ 12:09

  2. Julie Francis-Lang

    I am appalled by this blatant disregard for the correct construction of this building. I used to live in this area, I loved the fact that I could drive though with a lovey vista, welcoming visitors to and from Hastings’s. I am Sure the correct planning for this as not been followed. The council need to take this rule breaker to task, If not then more of these get rich quick property developers will change this very important are for ever! How dare they interfere with trees and the Landscape. This area is part of a nature reserve or at least very close to one. Shame on all of you! Please shout out at the planning department to put an end to this !!!!!

    Comment by Julie Francis-Lang — Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021 @ 13:52

  3. Bolshie

    Yes an excellent article by Bernard who really provides a great analysis of such planning issues. And given the current issues with the Enforcement issues with the Rocklands “Bunker” where HBC are prevaricating about action to an almost identical violation in the building specs. The sobriquet for this one “Son of Bunker” is just perfect.
    We appear to have a situation with HBC planners where they cherry pick who they might decide to pursue on Enforcement’s. There is no level playing field here. And despite we the public observing these disparities it does not phase them. They are impervious to how we see their failures to act

    Comment by Bolshie — Tuesday, Feb 23, 2021 @ 13:08

  4. Alison Cooper

    Thanks for this useful & interesting info.I love your articles as I too love proper and quality architecture. This is shameful and I hope HBC planning have the balls to make an example of these people.

    Comment by Alison Cooper — Monday, Feb 22, 2021 @ 19:19

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