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The Bunker from the west in May.

The Bunker from the west in May – a prominent feature.

Rocklands’ new planting scheme draws criticism

Another planting scheme has been submitted by the Rocklands Caravan Park owners to shield the prominent holiday-let home from outside view, but critics maintain it still falls far short of what is required. Permission is also being sought to re-install solar panels. Nick Terdre reports.

In its revised planting plan – the fourth iteration – Rocklands, which adjoins Hastings Country Park, has added five English oaks to the 12 proposed in the previous plan submitted in late January. The five additional trees would be planted to the south of the holiday-let known as ‘The Bunker’ and the 12 oaks to the north. Also to the south of the building are 70 holly saplings planted in 2014.

“This latest scheme, just like the three previous schemes, will not screen the building from the East Hill or the adjacent Country Park,” says Chris Hurrell on behalf of the Save Ecclesbourne Glen (SEG) group.

Not what the inspector specified

In Mr Hurrell’s view, this was not what the planning inspector had in mind when he gave permission on appeal for the Bunker, which was built without authorisation, to remain. “The Planning Inspector specified that substantial plantings (including semi-mature specimens) would be necessary on the Southern, Western and North Eastern Boundaries.”

The High Weald AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) Unit has yet to comment on the latest proposal, but was critical of the January plan. While they accepted that English oaks overcame their objection to the holm oaks previously proposed – which are not a native species as required by the inspector – they said their objection to the landscaping still stood.

“This will not be sufficient to screen this very obtrusive building from the rest of the Country Park which is within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” they said, adding that the existing vegetation “in no way screens this unsightly building.”

Diverging views on the holly

In submissions to Hastings Borough Council’s planning department, Rocklands and SEG also disagree on the efficacy of the holly plantings. This month Rocklands’ agent said it was “anticipated that the Holly will provide a substantial dense cover in three-five years”.

He added that he was “advised by the applicant’s Arboriculturist that the southern boundary is well planted and no further planting is necessary for screening purposes.”

Mr Hurrell says of the holly plants, “In the three years since they were planted they have hardly grown at all!” He refers to a statement by the borough arboriculturalist to the planning committee in 2015 that “it would take 20 years for the saplings to reach maturity if they took at all because of the inclement weather that prevails on the East Hill.”

Professional advice obtained by SEG from Julia Fogg, a member of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, the Landscape Institute and the Society of Garden Designers, concluded that the “holly sticks are inadequate for screening and will never provide dense cover as claimed”.

The SEG spokesman also points out that the planning inspector stipulated that a planting scheme had to be approved within three months of his decision in July 2016, a deadline which has long passed.

“It is hard to understand why HBC are prepared to let Rocklands produce so many inadequate planting schemes,” he says. “It is time for HBC to either force a proper planting scheme on Rocklands or to reject the application.”

An array of solar panels on rocklands ground photographed from the East Hill in March 2016.

An array of solar panels on Rocklands ground photographed from the East Hill in March 2016 (photo: SEG).

Solar panels back in play

Meanwhile Rocklands has applied to re-install 13 solar panels. These were previously installed without permission and had to be removed when the council issued an enforcement notice.

SEG says that six panels were re-installed shortly after being removed, making the application in part retrospective. The panels can be seen in recent photographs.
SEG has objected to the application, saying that the panels have been installed in a designated amenity area in breach of planning conditions which explicitly protect this area from development.

The location of the solar panels is in a very sensitive site that is protected by local planning policies and national guidelines, they say.

Posted 08:24 Thursday, Jun 29, 2017 In: Home Ground

2 Comments


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  1. P.MANN

    ROCKLANDS CARAVAN CAMP’S HOLLY TWIGS AND OAKS CLEARLY NEED TO BE LEFT ON SITE AND NOURISHED.HOWEVER,IT IS ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THAT THIS MAVERICK ORGANISATION TWISTS AND SLITHERS AT WILL AROUND AND THROUGH ALL REASONABLE PLANNING RULES ETC…IN COMMON PARLANCE THEY HAVE HAD TWO FINGERS IN THE AIR FOR FAR TOO LONG,SO PLEASE REMOVE THOSE ILLEGAL SOLAR PANELS AND CLOSE ROCKLANDS.ANYTHING LESS THAN CLOSURE WILL NOT SOLVE THIS RUNNING SORE ON THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE.

    Comment by P.MANN — Thursday, Jul 6, 2017 @ 13:30

  2. chris hurrell

    The HBC Tree Officer has just approved the latest planting scheme. He considers that:
    “Planting proposal appears to be sufficiently robust and has the potential to achieve screening of building over time.”

    This is complete nonsense the planting scheme cannot and will not screen the building at all from the Country park.

    If this planting schedule is approved than the visual amenity of our Country Park will be disfigured for good by the bunker.

    HBC had the opportunity to insist on a robust planting scheme that would mitigate the effects of the bunker on our Country Park. Rather than doing this they have allowed Rocklands to submit four planting schemes.

    Each scheme is completely inadequate and does not meet the requirements or expectations of the Planning Inspector when he granted permission for the bunker to remain. The Inspector granted permission on the basis that screening would mitigate the harm done to our Country Park by the bunker.

    Mr Wilken continues to ignore the requirements of the Planning Inspector and the fact that no screening has been proposed for either the western or north eastern boundaries at all.

    Mr Wilken continues to ignore the opinion of the AONB, CPRE and Friends of the Country Park. He has not considered our objections to the plantings scheme at all.

    Mr Wilken does not appear to give a fig for the visual amenity of our Country Park. With a single ill researched and incorrect sentence he is prepared to let the bunker permanently scar our Country Park.

    Mr Wilken is the HBC officer who claims that very few trees have been removed on the Rocklands site and refuses to plant any trees on HBC land to screen the caravan site.

    He has consistently refused to meet with SEG to discuss the planting scheme. He has also refused to meet to discuss our evidence of tree removals. It is hard to understand why Mr Wilken is so committed to doing absolutely nothing to protect our Country Park.

    Comment by chris hurrell — Friday, Jun 30, 2017 @ 17:53

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