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Architect’s impression of the proposed new build on Bulverhythe recreation field. Courtesy of HBC.

Floods of new housing in Hastings

Members of The Friends of Combe Valley, David Dennis and Elise Liversedge, believe that the future of the Combe Valley Country Park is in peril. They explain here why they are worried about a current planning application which closes for public comment this Friday.

Did you know that Hastings Borough Council is planning on building 192 homes on a flood plain, right next to a landfill site with a large hill oozing leachate and methane, on a road that leads to the dump? The area is also believed by local historian Nick Austin to be an archaeological site of national importance where Norman longboats might lie in the mud (see HOT’s articles from November and December 2012). On top of all this, the area is also an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and a nature reserve.

“We do need more housing, but not inside a Country Park on a flood plain next to a dump in the face of rising sea levels, increased rainfall, and ecological damage.”

Over the years Hastings Borough Council (HBC) has struggled with the town’s overpopulation. To build 192 new homes, the Council has selected an obvious flat site – the Bulverhythe Recreation Ground.

Bulverhythe was an historic medieval harbour and literally means ‘the landing place of the people’. In the Stone Age it was a steep-sided valley. In the Iron Age, the trees were removed for fuel, so erosion formed it into the U-shaped Combe Haven valley, prone to severe winter flooding.

Photograph of the flooded playing fields taken in 2014.

Bulverhythe Recreation Ground is now inside Combe Valley Countryside Park which is controlled by a Community Interest Company (CIC).

When the CIC was set up, the expressly declared core values of its key member – HBC – were to:
“preserve forever a green space between St Leonards-on-Sea and Bexhill-on-Sea – and
to preserve the wildlife reserve sites of special scientific interests (SSSI) of the Combe Haven river and its headstreams, the Watermill and Powdermill and the area known as Filsham Reed Beds.”

HBC have now applied for planning consent to overturn their core value and concrete over the entire recreation ground, raise the level by several feet and put car ports under all the homes on this notorious winter flood plain.

Because the valley floods naturally each year, HBC have employed Ambiental (drainage experts) to form a plan including pumping and a very large dam and sluice across the river at the northern end of Combe Haven Caravan Site. The Combe Haven stream cannot flow naturally to the sea, instead it can only be released through tidal lock gates at Bo-Peep, when the tides are low.

Consequently, because of high tides and the rise in sea levels due to global warming, the times of water release are gradually being reduced and thus natural flood water in the Valley will back up behind the sluice dam. The latest projections by Ambiental, placed on the HBC website on 12 February 2021, show water reaching Buckholt Farm area and Crowhurst. Last year eight homes flooded in Crowhurst village, without the presence of a sluice, so it is expected that more will flood if planning permission is granted.

Combe Valley Countryside Park is full of wildlife, including Red and Amber list conserved birds, some of them national or even international assets because of their numbers. There are also rare insects and some ancient woodland – all of these remarkable ecological assets could be affected. There is no proof that the effect would be adverse, but neither is there any proof that it will be acceptable – because HBC have not considered anything to do with wildlife in their planning, apart from great crested newts, badgers, and voles.

This shout-out for help just touches the surface of this poorly thought-out proposal. It is a land grab of a key community recreation area. We do need more housing, but not inside a Countryside Park on a flood plain next to a dump in the face of rising sea levels, increased rainfall, and ecological damage.

If you have an opinion on this – positive or negative then please comment on planning application HS/FA/20/00966 which is only open for comments until this Friday – 26 February.

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Posted 19:56 Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 In: Home Ground

8 Comments

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  1. Vitruvius

    The Council has just submitted a bid to the Towns Fund, which includes the proposal to promote Hastings as a “Garden Town” – a fine idea.

    Their own policies state their intent “to protect and enhance existing green space”, yet here they are proposing to build houses on a recreation ground.

    Leaving aside the stupidity of building on a floodplain, is it not time that we had some joined up thinking from our Council on retaining (and enhancing) our green space?

    Surely if Hastings aspires to be a “Garden Town” it should not be hell bent on building on its existing green space, whether it be at Bulverhythe or White Rock?

    Comment by Vitruvius — Wednesday, Mar 3, 2021 @ 09:59

  2. ken davis

    It is not just socialists that make such stupid decisions. As someone who has designed and project managed many public housing schemes I know only too well that specialist consultants can argue whatever case you want. Here it will be that any potential flooding can be controlled by pumping water uphill to where the housing should actually be located. Moreover, governments (blue and red) have always believed that poor people only deserve poor housing. The real absurdity here is that there is plenty of housing land up the hill which continues to be set aside for more empty factory units when the GB economy will increasingly rely on the intelligence sector which does not need factories. There is also plenty of small sites in the town for housing which could be released by adoption of better planning policies.

    Comment by ken davis — Thursday, Feb 25, 2021 @ 08:21

  3. Bolshie

    Aside from the comment I was going to make about this article. I note the need to say a few words on the comment by Erica Smith in respect of readers using “pseudonyms,” as it appears to irritate her.
    I see only comments by “genuine people” and those not using pseudonyms seems to be acceptable to Ms Smith.
    Of course such pseudonyms are not used when making an objection on a planning application. Having worked in the past on a column for a major national paper and one for a bi-weekly national business magazine, I had pseudonyms for those. There was never an issue about it and it always kept people guessing who was behind that pseudonym. What is her problem with this?
    Ms Smith’s final remark on how ” well informed comments make an impact” on planning applications. Having seen so many constructive comments posted on the controversial planning applications made by people, I entirely disagree here with this conception. Planning committees and councillors take no real heed to what the public say. Comments on planning applications is merely an exercise of so called democracy.
    To give a prime example back in 2010 there were over 700 objections filed against the planning application for the redevelopment of the old Hastings College site in Archery Road. Did the council take notice when it went to the committe, the answer to that is NO.

    Comment by Bolshie — Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021 @ 09:23

  4. Erica Smith

    Hippolyte, HBC are not duty-bound to read comments on HOT.
    It’s really important that if you have concerns about (or even if you support) the planning application that you follow the link in the article and make a comment on the Planning website… it’s relatively pointless to just comment here, though you can share information to help inform other people’s comments on the planning application.
    I do believe that if there are a significant number of sensible comments by genuine people (not hiding behind pseudonyms), then it can positively impact on planning applications – but it does need a significant number of well-informed comments to make an impact.

    Comment by Erica Smith — Tuesday, Feb 23, 2021 @ 10:02

  5. Hippolyte Grigg

    I challenge HBC to confirm that they read these comments and say so here.

    Comment by Hippolyte Grigg — Monday, Feb 22, 2021 @ 17:46

  6. Christopher Hurrell

    The development flies in the face of the much vaunted “carbon neutral policy” promoted by HBC. The development fails to conform to the highest environmental / energy saving standards. This is a lost opportunity to use the project as a showcase project. There is no attempt to install renewable energy resources such as solar panels or solar heating. How the buildings will be heated has not been covered – will they make use of heat exchange pumps? The complete failure to incorporate ecological principles in the design is illustrated by the fact that there will only be 2 electrical charging points on site for 4 electric vehicles. The parking capacity of the site is around 320 vehicles.

    Comment by Christopher Hurrell — Monday, Feb 22, 2021 @ 09:57

  7. Keith Piggott

    The Observer (5 February 2021) also reported Bulverhythe’s ‘Flood zone site 192 homes plan’ – developing that community’s scarce amenity land on developers and council assurances that flood defences shall eliminate flood risk to that community. IF that community Will it so, let it be so,

    But I add caveat. In December 2012, my 360-degrees photo-survey of flooded ‘Coombe Haven’ (behind Bulver-Hythe) inland harbour of William’s invasion fleet on The Norman Invasion 1066 website, shows the staggering scale of natural inland flooding. Images from divers vantage points reveal surprising extent of the several inland channels extending miles into Crowhurst hinterland, all backed up behind Pebsham landfill. Composite-Images can be provided for publication.

    My thoughts immediately turned to renewable-energy. I saw this ancient tidal inlet, given a tunnel through to the sea, with hydro-turbines to benefit from four floods a day (in and out), could yet be Hastings’ natural tidal dam. I mooted concept for Mr Hollox’s Hastings Plan in 2013, but the council only talked of windfarms in ANBs and SSIs; uninterrupted tidal and wave energy was ingore. Has the council still not moved on to the zero-carbon gain of a tidal dam?

    If the Bulverhythe communiy’s scarce amenity land is to be scourged, (again), might this council and developers not see a real gain in a scheme that prevents flooding, and also delivers to the entire local community uninterrupted tidal energy? TIC.

    Comment by Keith Piggott — Monday, Feb 22, 2021 @ 00:41

  8. Stewart Rayment

    It is typical of Socialism to think that it can defeat nature; short-term solutions for today’s problems, forget the problems they will bring.

    Comment by Stewart Rayment — Sunday, Feb 21, 2021 @ 22:30

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