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Groundwork under way on Park Lane’s site adjacent to 777 The Ridge.

Save our Harrow Lane Playing Fields!

Four housing developments at the top of Harrow Lane, which are in various stages of application or approval, will drastically change the character of the area if all go ahead. While acknowledging the need to boost the town’s housing stock, Conservative Cllr Mike Edwards, who represents Ashdown ward, finds the prospect daunting, as he explains.

The steady roar of the heavy earth-moving equipment cutting through the ancient green pasture gives the first clue to the unfolding disaster taking place in Ashdown Ward. The scrubbing out of the hedge, the felling of trees and the erection of fences carrying the forbidding “No entry” signs is another clue.

Hastings Council, in its quest to be seen to be building more houses, is embarking on a tragic journey of destruction in the northern tip of the borough. This site in particular, where Harrow Lane meets The Ridge, has not actually been granted planning approval but the developer, emboldened by a hand-wringing and supine planning authority is pressing ahead regardless with the construction of 67 dwellings. It’s the smallest of three conjoined development sites, the other two of which have approval for 208 and 140 dwellings respectively.

If all three proceed, and this is the likelihood, gone forever will be these last remaining greenfield sites in this part of the borough which have provided recreational space and exercise facilities for residents over many centuries.  No more will locals be able to take their dog out for exercise, no more will youngsters be able to safely kick a ball about, no more will adults be able to take, what we are told during this pandemic, is vital daily exercise in open fields.

Densely packed housing

In their place we shall have densely packed housing on pocket handkerchief sized plots with no garages and narrow roads jammed with parked cars. Recently, across the road an application for 148 dwellings has been submitted for the Ashdown House site, better known as the Child Support Agency building, plus a new retail unit. So in total we now have applications granted or pending numbering 563 dwellings, a figure far in excess of any other single proposed development within the borough.

Most of the homeowners living on these sites will spill out onto a short length of Harrow Lane, which everyone knows is a narrow congested bending road with poor sight lines. The planners have rejected mini roundabouts and other traffic control methods but have accepted the idea of a Travel Plan which essentially means persuading people to switch to buses.

The professional analysis shows that an additional 1,573 daily vehicle movements will be generated by the new developments. Local residents will no longer be permitted to park on Harrow Lane in order to comply with an ESCC Traffic Regulation Order for visibility splays.

We are assured by the various developers, and it’s accepted by the planners, that the local schools, the doctors’ and dentists’ surgeries, our beloved Conquest hospital, the bus services, etc, are all capable of absorbing the additional volume of population. I call that living in a dream world.

Harrow Lane Playing Fields: outline permission exists for 140 dwellings.

Now the solution to this is a straightforward and simple one. Of the four sites in play, one alone is owned by Hastings Borough Council. It is called Harrow Lane Playing Fields. As the name suggests it was for many years a mixed sporting facility situated at one of the highest points in the borough.

No takers

In August 2019 the council granted itself outline planning approval for 140 housing units of which 56 should be affordable. The cash-strapped council claims it can sell the site with planning approval for more than £5m, but although it’s been on the market for two years and allegedly much interest has been shown, it has failed to sell.

Most fair-minded residents in the borough recognise the need to build more housing and progress has been made in recent years. However I sense from speaking to residents that this huge and dense development is going too far. The ability to leave your house and find open space nearby is much cherished – it is ironic that people living in the town centre have the seafront, Alexandra Park, the Oval, the East and West hills and other smaller parks all within easy reach.

If all these proposed developments were to go ahead the people of north Ashdown would be denied access to this simple but essential amenity. I think that most people living in the surrounding area – and let’s be clear, this is already a heavily built-up area – would take the view that if the three privately owned sites were to proceed while the Playing Fields site was spared, this would be a fair trade-off between more housing and existing green space.

I’ve heard it said by a Labour Councillor that the intensive development is a payback for over-development in other parts of the town. In my view housing is too critical and permanent an issue to be used as a political football.

I therefore call upon HBC to take the Harrow Lane Playing Fields site off the market. In fact I would go further and actively seek a contribution from the developers of the other three sites to enhance and improve it. It should be possible to create some imaginative recreational designs for a multi-use games area suitable for all sections of the population, young and older. I shall be asking for a zimmer frame race track.

Planning applications

HS/OA/17/00901 Harrow Lane Playing Fields: outline permission for 140 dwellings
HS/FA/20/00970 Land adjacent to 777 The Ridge: application submitted for 67 dwellings
HS/OA/15/00077 Holmhurst St Mary 208 dwellings full
HS/FA/21/00003 Ashdown House: application submitted for 148 dwellings plus retail outlets.

Further enquiries

Chair of Planning Committee: Cllr.alan.roberts@hastings.gov.uk
HBC Head of Planning: eevans@hastings.gov.uk
The author: cllr.mike.edwards@hastings.gov.uk

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Posted 16:35 Wednesday, Apr 7, 2021 In: Home Ground

7 Comments

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  1. ken davis

    Cllr Edwards calls this ‘densely packed housing’, he has clearly never been out of Hastings. One reason Hastings is in such need of more housing is that far too many suburban low density schemes have been built in the past.

    Comment by ken davis — Monday, Apr 12, 2021 @ 15:42

  2. Lynda Mary Foy

    It is ironic that the Government is urging the public to take more exercise, while we are likely to lose our Harrow Lane playing field, a valuable lung for whole area.
    We are already concerned about traffic queues at the bottom of Harrow Lane, at peak times, and then speeding traffic (50-60mph) during the day. If all these proposals go ahead, and the link road between the A21 and Queensway is not built, Harrow Lane and the Ridge are likely to reach gridlock at peak times of the day.
    We have written to Transport Secretary Grant Schapps and Local Government Minister Luke Hall to call in and review these housing projects and the link road fiasco, which has been dragging on the years now, because we fear a future environmental and social disaster here.

    Comment by Lynda Mary Foy — Monday, Apr 12, 2021 @ 06:13

  3. Jane Grist

    Yes please keep the Harrow Lane Pl

    Yes please keep the only green space in the area for residents to get a breath of fresh air.

    Comment by Jane Grist — Saturday, Apr 10, 2021 @ 20:03

  4. Madaleen Jenner

    I have already objected to the playing fields development and agree with everything Councillor Edwards has said. I don’t know where the Council think that local amenities will cope. Ark Little Ridge is already over subscribed, the dr. Surgery in Little Ridge is shut, hopefully not permanently, the Conquest hospital has already been extended a lot since it was built. I also think his idea of a multi-use games area on the playing field is an excellent idea for use by everyone, young and old. So glad we have a Councillor who will fight for what is best for the area. On top of everything else the traffic build up would be horrendous and spoil our local area.

    Comment by Madaleen Jenner — Friday, Apr 9, 2021 @ 12:45

  5. Hippolyte Grigg

    HBC is at it again.
    Apparently ESCC own the large piece of land on the Ridge on the corner of St Helen’s Down. This has been vacant for years now. Would it not be suitable for housing?
    H Grigg

    Comment by Hippolyte Grigg — Thursday, Apr 8, 2021 @ 18:25

  6. A M Willson-White

    I support everything that has been said about building on the Harrow Lane Playing Fields. It would be shortsighted and irreversible. I did not think it was government policy to fill green lungs like this.

    Comment by A M Willson-White — Thursday, Apr 8, 2021 @ 17:16

  7. DAR

    I completely endorse everything Cllr. Mike Edwards has written here (and I’m a “floating voter”, not a party hack). All these developments (in Focus Area 3 of the Local Plan) are not only large, but are all in the same vicinity – in an area already heavily congested with traffic. Moreover, HBC and Sea Change, unbelievably, decided to ahead with the Queensway Gateway road (designed to alleviate traffic congestion where Harrow Lane meets The Ridge) BEFORE they had acquired the necessary land. The road construction is now halted for an indefinite period because acquisition of the land has stalled.

    I wouldn’t object to housebuilding on the (brownfield) Ashdown House site IF the playing fields were spared from development so this vital green space could be used as an amenity for new residents from the Ashdown House site as well as those who use it now. Better, HBC could provide a children’s playground there and a new pavilion too to encourage more “active lifestyles” as it says in HBC’s own Local Plan. I thought it was successive governments’ policy NOT to build on playing fields, but HBC, as it is, seemed to have missed or forgotten this point. This is not “nimbyism”, it’s commen sense.

    Comment by DAR — Thursday, Apr 8, 2021 @ 11:03

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