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The ‘overbearing’ and ‘negative’ side wall of Palace Court, Grade II listed.

Rabbit hutches for White Rock

What did the Conservation Officer of Hastings Borough Council (HBC) say about a high new building in a conservation area?  Nothing.  The Planning Committee?  Nothing.  As the new development takes shape at the old White Rock Post Office, Bernard McGinley, who also took the photos, looks at a decided case.

Beside Arthur Green’s in the White Rock shopping parade, the former Post Office (Sammons) is now a building site.  The planning case is HS/FA/18/00663.  The works involve the partial demolition of the existing building, and reconfiguration of the existing site.

Most of this is unremarkable, even welcome.  The new design also includes a new building, a tower ‘three storeys higher than the existing front building’.  This increases the number of dwellings from two to nine including ‘a duplex’.

In the Council report, the accommodation is described as being ‘in excess of the minimum nationally described space standards’.  It meets them, as required but the statement is misleading.  The legal minimum size for one-bedroom, two-people accommodation is 50 square metres.  Four of these new units are exactly 50 square metres. 

The view from below.

No committee decision

Approval was not a matter for the Planning Committee.  It was done under delegated powers by officers in November 2018.  The site is part of the Hastings Town Centre Conservation Area, near its boundary with the White Rock Conservation Area.  Even so, the Conservation Officer had no comment on the proposals, though Palace Court adjoining is Grade II listed (as well as in the applicant’s ownership).

In the application form the applicant’s company name has been redacted by HBC, though there are no grounds for doing so.  (It’s 32-33 White Rock Ltd, though a later application regarding the same site HS/CD/21/00191 is from Roost People Ltd).  

The new site will have a courtyard between the rebuilt shop and the backhouse:  how open or accessible is unclear.  Another retail unit at the rear and racks for about 14 bikes are also proposed.  The ‘car free scheme’ (Design & Access Statement [DAS] Part 3) suggests that with its pinched accommodation and sea views, it is probably intended for the Airbnb market. 

Courtyard Elevations: (North) and (South) respectively, from DAS Pt 3.

Wall

The case has discussion of the side ‘flank’ wall of Palace Court.  The applicant’s DAS Part 2 states, ‘This wall does not contribute positively to the street scene’ but many disagree.  The wall is said to be ‘overbearing’ and creating a ‘negative outlook’:  ‘a party wall which contributes negatively to the [conservation area]s’.  The ‘we’re-doing-you-a-favour’ tone is tiresome and unpersuasive.  The contribution of the replacement is not much considered, or how it will affect the skyline from the top of Dorset Place.  The high backhouse can also be considered to be overbearing.

Three separate Design & Access documents, three HBC case reports and two Daylight & Sunlight reports hamper the clarity of the proposals. 

Less jarring than what?

From afar and at the top of Dorset Place, the architectural metalwork cresting of Palace Court can be seen, a kind of pickelhaube on the Hastings skyline.  The new development will compromise the fine starkness of that, and the views from the street known as White Rock Gardens.

It is unclear how the decision got to be treated under delegated powers.  Neither of the ward members (nor any other councillor) saw fit to ‘call in’ the case under the HBC Constitution (Part 5, Appendix 1, para 12 c.), to refer it to the Planning Committee.  

The Council’s report appears to draw on developer-supplied material about conservation and ‘heritage’, accepting it on their terms:  

As this [rear] building will be set significantly back from the street elevation to white rock [sic], although it proposes building three storeys higher than the existing front building, it is considered to have a less jarring impact on the street scene. 

‘Less jarring’ than what?  The view from behind is not addressed, nor the effect on the high route to White Rock Gardens and St Margaret’s Road.  (The sea side of the walkway there remains a car park instead of giving pedestrians and visitors the view.)

A consultants’ report on the future of White Rock Gardens is overdue, that is also expected to explain the development of spaces to achieve a ‘green garden town’.

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Posted 12:52 Sunday, Mar 14, 2021 In: Home Ground

5 Comments

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  1. Madelaine Cooper

    This is a well researched and well written piece Bernard. Thanks so much for bringing this to HOT. We live behind this development on White Rock Gardens and are deeply concerned about the impact to our home and those of our neighbours in a Conservation Area as well as the negative visual impact on the seafront and would appreciate a phone call or distance meeting with you to discuss this further if that would be possible please.

    Comment by Madelaine Cooper — Thursday, Mar 25, 2021 @ 07:57

  2. Bernard McGinley

    The procedural faults of this case are major. HBC kept it under the radar, for reasons that can only be wondered at, mutely affecting the setting of a listed building in a Conservation Area. The application details were obscured too, and propagandistic.

    If there are major new buildings in White Rock Gardens soon, the back road to there will be talked up: the route past the Observer Building. by Dorset Place and St Michael’s Place. That was ignored.

    I agree there’s nothing wrong with old and new if the quality of materials and design is good. Planning documents are notable for their highminded bilge however (and drawings including trees that the budget doesn’t allow for). The pinchedness of the rooms is not encouraging. Sensitive to the surrounding? News to me.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Tuesday, Mar 16, 2021 @ 08:10

  3. Alison Cooper

    Thanks Bernard, for bringing new builds etc to our attention- I was completely unaware of this one! It’s hard for me to tell how imposing this build will be but from looking at the Design and Access document- it seems like they have a very good environmental plan for it and the materials look of good and handsome quality? I understand it’s a conservation area too and LOVE The Palace Building but I also like the mix of old and modern together- it can work if done with quality materials and being sensitive to the surrounding….cheers

    Comment by Alison Cooper — Monday, Mar 15, 2021 @ 19:53

  4. Mrs heather Grief

    The lack of daylight for future residents (temporary or permanent) is concerning – there can’t be much distance between the street-front and ‘back’ buildings, both tall buildings, and hardly any space at all between the ‘back’ building and the cliff face (which was cut back by 110 feet to make way for the seafront and row of houses in 1833/4).
    This is unacceptable anywhere, let alone in a conservation area with a Grade II building next door.
    The use of delegated powers rather than proper consideration is equally wrong, and the hiding of the developers/owners name – maybe you should have called it chicken coops for people to ‘Roost’ in, rather that rabbit hutches.

    Comment by Mrs heather Grief — Monday, Mar 15, 2021 @ 13:47

  5. ken davis

    Far be it from me to suggest a lack of consistency by the planners but, having granted permission twice for me to have a three storey scheme (same as the original building), they are now asking me to take a whole floor off what has already been built so making the building a storey lower than the original. Go figure as they say.

    Comment by ken davis — Monday, Mar 15, 2021 @ 07:56

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