Much to debate at SEG’s AGM
There will be much to chew over when the Save Ecclesbourne Glen group holds its annual general meeting (AGM) in late February – the owners’ successful appeal against the demolition of the Bunker, the battle to have it effectively screened from the Country Park and the other conditions set by the planning inspector complied with. Nick Terdre reports.
The Save Ecclesbourne Glen (SEG) group hopes to see a large number of supporters at its meeting at the White Rock Hotel on 26 February, where the agenda will include an update on events since the last AGM in late 2015 and a discussion on what shape the campaign should take in the future.
Both council leader Peter Chowney and leader of the Conservative group, Rob Lee have been invited, SEG spokesperson Chris Hurrell told HOT; so far only Cllr Lee has confirmed his attendance.
The planning inspector’s decision to allow the appeal after finding a whole variety of reasons for dismissing it, caused great frustration and resentment among the many Country Park users who want to see the widely reviled holiday-let removed. Now that it has officialdom’s blessing, hopes rest on having it effectively screened from sight and the other conditions, mainly concerning a drainage system in line with regulations and an archeological programme of works, adhered to.
Planning committee says no
Last week the planning committee turned down the recommendation of the planning department to have the condition on archeological monitoring fully discharged – it was partially complied with in November with the submission by the developer of a written scheme of investigation.
Archeological monitoring is intended to ensure that when groundworks are carried out, for example in connection with the drainage system, any archeological deposits revealed in the process are identified and protected against damage. This took place late last year with the excavation of some postholes and drainage runs, after which a report on the archeological findings (none) was submitted. The same procedure needs to be followed when any further groundworks take place.
Both SEG, in the person of the chair, Bob Okines, and Old Hastings councillor, James Bacon, made short presentations to the committee explaining their objections to discharge. The council’s development manager, Eleanor Evans then introduced a late amendment to the planning department’s recommendation, arguing that the condition should be discharged and if it later transpired that further groundworks were required, the decision could be recalled.
However, she offered no legal backing for such a view and the majority of committee members disagreed with the case. Full discharge of the condition was refused by six votes to four and the matter referred to the committee’s March meeting.
“Our interpretation of the inspector’s condition on monitoring is that it should be considered to be a multi-episode process – so far there’s been one episode, which was the monitoring of the postholes and a drainage run,” Mr Hurrell said. “As far as we’re concerned, that process was done properly. However, we do not believe the condition should be discharged as we think there are subsequent groundwork episodes to be done.
“This is where we differ in our interpretation from the planning department, who consider it extremely unlikely that any further episodes will be necessary. In our view more work is likely to be necessary for the drainage, probably for Building Control purposes and possibly for planting.”
Mr Hurrell also questioned the use of late revisions by the planning department on the grounds that they do not give the planning committee time for proper consideration. The normal rule is that all documentation is provided three days ahead of the meeting. A last-minute change to the department’s recommendation was also made at the November meeting.
Second revision to planting scheme
The March meeting will also consider the planting or landscaping scheme, assuming it has the planning department’s approval by then. A second revised plan was submitted in January, which appears to have taken on board criticisms that the 12 holm oaks proposed in the previous scheme are not a native species, as required by the inspector – they have now been replaced with 12 English oaks.
However, as SEG has pointed out, the location of the oaks to the north-east of ‘the Bunker’ will only screen the building from the remainder of the caravan park. ‘The Bunker’ will still be rudely visible from both the East Hill and Ecclesbourne Glen.
Drainage solution still lacking
Meanwhile a satisfactory scheme for connecting ‘the Bunker’ to the site drainage system still appears to be some way off. Drainage issues are believed to be involved in the landslip which occurred on the eastern slopes of the caravan park. A scheme still has to be approved by Southern Water, which in early February reiterated that it had yet to be presented with an acceptable proposal. This will have to conform to the current requirement that surface and foul water be kept separate until they enter the authority’s sewer.
In previous correspondence Southern Water had said it would be willing to make an exception for drainage arrangements already in place, but as Mr Okines pointed out in his presentation, other correspondence secured by SEG through a Freedom of Information request indicated that drains still had to be laid.
Save Ecclesbourne Glen AGM Sunday 26 February, 2.30pm, White Rock Hotel, 1-10 White Rock, Hastings TN34 1JU. All welcome.
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