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Hastings Country Park

Energy efficient visitor centre at Hastings Country Park

HOT has heard from Hastings Borough Council that they are in the final stages of planning to build the new visitor centre for Hastings Country Park. They say that the visitor centre will offer improved facilities for visitors to the park with the opportunity to learn about all the park has to offer (past and present), to take part in events and activities and to relax and enjoy the amazing views over the English Channel.

In March 2015 Hastings Borough Council’s Planning Committee agreed planning permission for the construction of the new visitor Centre at the Country Park.

Colin Fitzgerald, lead councillor for the environment said, “A key feature of the new visitor centre is that much of the building will be constructed using straw bales. This has been chosen as a sustainable and energy efficient way of creating the building. European Commission funding has been secured from the Interreg North West Europe programme to help fund the centre.

Hastings Country Park

Hastings Country Park

“The Interreg North West Europe project that is helping to fund the centre is called Up-Straw and as part of this project, one public building is being built out of straw or insulated with straw in England, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.”

He added, “As the process of engaging contractors for the project nears completion, we are starting to prepare the site for the construction of the visitor centre.

“This process involves removing a layer of topsoil from the footprint of the building. The topsoil will be banked safely on site for re-use later during the project. This will allow further tests and preparations for laying the foundations of the building to take place.

“Archaeologists will be on site throughout the process to help identify any artefacts or finds relating to the park’s wealth of history so that these can be recorded and conserved as appropriate.

“Fencing will be put in place to ensure that the site is safe and secure. The fencing will match the current fencing used.”

Posted 10:47 Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018 In: Home Ground


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  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    Eye on the Ball – I am afraid that simply by sending this council the demanded fee of £120 would not get us very far. If a council can blatantly process a planning application with false declarations from the get go and then proceed to administer the application under the incorrect planning legislation, what hope is there for anyone to ever get any satisfactory responses?
    There have been many instances over the past years concerning the Hastings Country Park issues and the council’s refusal to back down and release various documents has resulted in ratepayers forking out six figure sums in legal costs. This really is totally unacceptable.
    The answer to this particular issue is to get as much publicity as possible so residents know precisely how this council operaters when residents raise queries about council business which seem far from correct.
    One way or another residents need to do everything in their power to bring this department to heel. Whatever your political leanings, do read Councillor Rob Lee’s comments in this week’s Hastings Observer’s OPINION section.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Feb 23, 2018 @ 10:30

  2. eye on the ball

    This sounds like a complete mess and the whole project should be scrapped.

    If the council insists on pushing it through, given the comments by other HOT readers, is there a case for prosecution of any council members (if the proposed structure and associated waste processing would be illegal)? Do we have any lawyers out there who could comment?

    Are we able to lodge a complaint against the proposals with Natural England?

    The key here is to nip this in the bud before HBC start destroying this wonderful area. We need to take some action. If raising £120 to raise an objection would halt this process it has to be worth it and could very quickly be raised from HOT’s concerned readers.

    Comment by eye on the ball — Friday, Feb 23, 2018 @ 08:40

  3. Bolshie

    Yes I am one of those who raised this issue of an incorrect application form on this latest raft of planning applications. And why is Murray Davidson’s name on it as an applicant? None of the other applications have been field in his name. One has to wonder what their ploy is by doing this.
    When I raised issue with HBC on this form as Mrs Doubtfire has duly mentioned, the reply came back wanting this £120 to answer my issues with the form. And what if their answers are inadequate or fail to address the matter. Will I be having to pay out £120 yet again.
    I guess those good old Labour councillors – Socialists I think they also call themselves have agreed to the public being charged when their council has got it wrong.

    Comment by Bolshie — Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 @ 17:30

  4. Russell Hall

    Natural England raised an objection to the original septic tank proposal in HS/FA/14/01033 saying that “The septic tank referred to in application documents would normally discharge to a shallow drainage field and would, therefore, require assessment as to whether an Environmental Permit would be required from the Environment Agency. Any such discharge may also have a negative impact on the nearby SSSI/SAC, in particular, by damage to bryophytes, which are a notified feature of the SSSI.”. The septic tank was removed from the proposal but has been reintroduced and Natural England does not appear to have been consulted about this change.

    The Environment Agency classifies the area as a Groundwater High Vulnerability Zone so it is highly vulnerable to pollutants discharged at ground level by a septic tank.

    Comment by Russell Hall — Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 @ 08:22

  5. Ms.Doubtfire

    I understand that three local residents have queried the processes adminstered with these plannong applications. The issue of how this application could have got past the first hurdle being of particular concern.
    The application form states that Mr. Murray Davidson is the applicant and that he is not an employee of Hastings Borough Council and that he has not received any pre application advice from the local authority. It is highly unlikely that as this is a Hastings borough council application, no pre application advice was sought. As I recall Mr. Davidson has on several occasions given advice on matters relating to developmnet and other issues within the Country Park
    To declare that Mr. Murray Davidson is not an employee of Hastings Borough Council is a false declaration and this application form should not have proceeded in this format.
    All three residents who raised this matter and other issues relating to the information within the application, have received notification from the planning department informing them that on receipt of £120 payable to Hastings Borough Council, their queries may be investigated.
    What hope is there for any justice in this town if valid questions concerning the legalities of an application are dismissed in this way?
    It is surely an impertinence to request this money. Officers in the employ of a council are paid to be helpful in assisting residents. Not in this Borough.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 @ 14:36

  6. Christopher Hurrell

    There has recently been a series of planning applications made for the visitor centre. There are a large number of changes proposed which have compromised the design of the building. Rather than resubmitting these changes as a fresh and full application for proper scrutiny HBC are pushing the changes through as a minor variation. The AONB have suggested that due to the volume of changes a fresh and full application should be submitted.

    The previous HOTTIE article by Bernard McGinley details the many issues with the applications. In my opinion HBC are seriously misusing planning process in order to rush the changes for the visitor centre through.

    It has recently been discovered that HBC are now intending to install a septic tank for foul drainage. A septic tank was originally considered for the building in 2015 but was opposed by Natural England and the Environment Agency. The foul water disposal was then changed to be discharged to the sewer network.

    The latest application for the building does not explicitly mention a septic tank anywhere. However a recent application to discharge planning conditions included plans for a septic tank. Natural England and other consultees have not been reconsulted. I fear that HBC are attempting to reintroduce the septic tank without following proper process and without consulting consultees. Waste water from the septic tank will be drained into the area around the visitor centre. This area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

    The ONLY references to the septic tank were provided in the discharge application HS/CD/17/01101. This application discharged condition 4 on drainage using a new plan that was not approved in the original permission nor approved by a minor amendment. A discharge application cannot grant permission for changes to the approved plans. The new plans for a septic tank must be approved by use of a minor amendment. Fundamental changes to drainage have been made by the back door misusing proper planning procedure.

    The discharge application has sought by sleight of hand to reintroduce the septic tank. No consultation with consultees took place. Not only is this in conflict with the recommendations of Natural England and other consultees but a discharge application cannot introduce new plans that contradict the approved plans and then approve them. Condition 4 on drainage has not been legally discharged as the septic tank requires approval either by a minor amendment or a full planning application.

    The Non Material Amendment to vary condition 4 is also an abuse of process. It removes all references to foul drainage despite the fact that the original application was amended to include connected foul drainage. As such this is a material amendment, conflicts with the original condition and also changes conditions imposed because of consultee objections to the original application.

    It is now clear that the minor amendment, discharge and NMA all seek to revert back to using a septic tank by sleight of hand and misuse of process. This is against the express objections of consultees during the original application.

    Natural England objected in the original application to the use of a septic tank in the strongest of terms:

    Foul Sewage – Details of the equipment to be used and of the intended location. The septic tank referred to application documents would normally discharge to a shallow drainage field and would, therefore, required assessment as to whether an Environmental Permit would be required from the Environment Agency. Any such discharge may also have a negative impact on the nearby SSSI/SAC, in particular, by damage to bryophytes, which are a notified feature of the SSSI.

    The reversion to use of a septic tank conflicts with the original planning permission and the objections received from consultees such as Natural England. At no point has approval been sought from consultees for the reintroduction of the septic tank. Natural England have not been reconsulted and a permit has not been sought from the Environment Agency.

    The three recent applications for the visitor centre are an absolute shambles. There has been serious misuse of procedure and a failure to consult key consultees. It is time to recognize that such a confusing process is unacceptable and to introduce a new fresh and full application where all issues can be investigated in an open and transparent manner with full consultation.

    To continue with the current process risks bringing the already jaded reputation of our planning department into disrepute.

    The planning department should be setting an example of proper planning procedure and not relying on three contradictory and invalid applications to rush through changes to the visitor centre. There has been serious abuse of process and this will no doubt set precedents for developers to abuse in the future.

    Should the current procedure continue there is a risk that the permission for the visitor centre will be illegal and that the decision could be challenged at judicial review.

    Comment by Christopher Hurrell — Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018 @ 18:14

  7. Andy Ammo

    The Visitor Centre design has been substantially changed and worsened. The original case ref is HS/FA/14/01033. There is also a near-Portakabin new alternative, HS/FA/17/01018. To bridge these two cases, applications HS/NM/18/00059 and HS/CD/17/01101 have been contrived for pushing through. One proposes a ‘Non-Material Amendment’ for what is a Material Amendment.

    Procedural sleight of hand like this is what gives Hastings Borough Council’s planning department such a bad name.

    Drinks on the terrasse? Forget it. Sliding timber shutters suddenly too expensive? Try metal rollers instead. Light pollution from the Visitor Centre? See no evil. Bike store on the other side of Lower Coastguard Lane? Rother District Council have not published an application. Septic tank there or thereabouts? Nothing to see here.

    Read the files and wonder what is going on.

    Comment by Andy Ammo — Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018 @ 17:40

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