Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Park Beck - a five-storey building is proposed to replace it (photo: Bernard McGinley).

Park Beck – a five-storey building is proposed to replace it (photo: Bernard McGinley).

Assault on Conservation Area 13

Does St Leonards need another planning controversy? It looks like it’s getting one anyway as the council considers plans to knock down Park Beck in Upper Maze Hill – part of the Markwick Terrace Conservation Area – and replace it with a bloated Croydonesque mess. Bernard McGinley walks Burton’s turnpike.

Stately old St Leonards is under serious threat again — both by developers and Hastings Borough Council (HBC), who indulge them relentlessly. The recent sellout of the Archery Ground, and the furious disregard of wildlife crimes on the large site at 123-125 West Hill Road, are instances. Now Park Beck at 21 Upper Maze Hill is in line for some special treatment.

The building lies within the Markwick Terrace Conservation Area, which was designated by Hastings Borough Council on 13 June 1990. Notices were placed in the London Gazette (28 June 1990, page 11,185) and elsewhere. Under Section 277 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, the intention was made clear:

. . . that special attention shall be paid to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the area designated.

It is a beautifully spacious area, running south from The Green to where Upper Maze Hill gives the south-bound traveller a glorious view of the sea, with a diverse array of villas on both sides of the road. James Burton himself designed the route, one of the two St Leonards turnpike roads to Silverhill.

A planning application by the owners of Park Beck, the residential care home at 21 Upper Maze Hill, proposes to demolish the present two-storey building and replace it with a multi-storey block – originally seven but now revised to five – of striking inelegance. Among the reasons for this proposal are that the building is in such poor condition — in other words its bad maintenance by the people now seeking to knock it down. How long this proposed Extra Care Home, with its balconies and sea views, would stay one is a matter for conjecture.

The plans show scant respect for neighbouring buildings such as Caple-ne-Ferne (Grade II Listed) in Pevensey Road, and St John the Evangelist church (Grade II* Listed).  The developers repeatedly understate the latter’s status.

The application mentions that the building line of Maze Hill will be extended to the rear by this proposed new home, but not that it will also be extended at the front. Additionally the developers’ statement in Section 4.2 (Massing and Street Scene) of the Design and Access Statement, that

The scale of the proposed new building is in line with the other buildings on the Upper Maze Hill

is clearly false.

The application is riddled with blatant – and covert – untruths, and English as good as their building maintenance. Rapidly the question arises:  just how far can these people be trusted?  

Among the objectors is the Victorian Society, which pointed out that the building – formerly Gensing House – was certainly a Victorian one with many original features (despite the owners’ statements to the contrary), and is of some significance, both in itself and in its context. 

no22-resizedHBC planning department posted elevations and other drawings on the HBC website, sideways on.  Despite repeated requests to show the drawings with what in August the planning department itself referred to as ‘the correct orientation’, these 10 drawings have remained sideways.

To some local residents, this response felt and feels like obstruction — a manifestation of the sod-the-public attitude for which the HBC planning department has a certain reputation.

Finch Mansions indisputably has seven storeys.

According to the elevation drawing, top, submitted by the developer, Finch Mansions has six storeys. The real Finch Mansions has seven. So how accurate are the other elevation drawings? And will HBC planners notice?

Alternatively, perhaps there are application details that it prefers people not to notice.

Last week the developers submitted more drawings.  Again the council posted them sideways. One of the new objections, from Robert Blizard, dated 24 October, pointed out that in the revised drawings the slope of Maze Hill was adjusted so that the impact of the proposed development was misleadingly stated. Details of nearby buildings were also adjusted in size and shape. Finch Mansions, adjoining on the fake gradient, was euphemised by ‘losing’ a storey. So much for professional draughtsmen.

HBC accepted the revised application, which has no revision number for the diagram and no explanation of the changes. These are breaches of good practice (and remain a source of confusion).

The revised proposal (in the Schedule of Amendments) is for a blocky block of five storeys instead of seven — as if we should be grateful for what remains unacceptable:  a monolithic lump in a quiet Victorian area, complete with underground car parking and garden-grabbing. The characterful old building that is Park Beck was designated to give it the protection it now obviously needs. Planning burble about ‘sustainable development’ is a diversion from that. Paragraphs 138 and 133 of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) are clear about the planning authority’s tightly restricted options.

There is no news so far of a planning committee date for the case.  There is still time to comment — the planning case reference is HS/FA/16/00427.

Posted 12:31 Sunday, Oct 30, 2016 In: Home Ground


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  1. Bob Blizard

    Bernard is absolutely right to point out the inconsistencies in the proposed development. These are not limited to the drawings. The original proposal referred to 52 Flats (19/8/16) and this was revised to 35 Flats (10/10/16 and 19/10/16). However, the ‘Planning Statement’ (19/10/16) now states that the proposal comprises 29 Flats (paras 1.1, 1.5, 4.8 and 5.1) and also 52 Flats (Para 4.18). If the Council do approve this application can we be sure whether it is a 29 or 35 Flat plan they are approving? Further confusion is provided by the date given for the completion of the ‘Planning Statement’ which is June 2016 – a full 2 months before the original (52 Flat) application was posted and 4 months before the revised (35 Flat) application on the HBC website.

    Comment by Bob Blizard — Sunday, Nov 13, 2016 @ 14:24

  2. Ms. doubtfire

    Andy Ammo asks if this planning authority are fools or knaves.
    Judging from evidence over the past decade I would guess that the term knaves fits very well. Certainly not fools. Foolish maybe.
    They cannot continue ignoring planning legislaltion, Policies, and local views. HBC – you have been rumbled. Even the ICO has found fault with your reasoning. Look on the ICO website and see the latest news aka this Council. Makes for very interesting reading indeed!

    Comment by Ms. doubtfire — Friday, Nov 4, 2016 @ 09:09

  3. Andy Ammo

    Yet again the Council shows contempt for the Borough’s residents. The developers submit dubious documents, and HBC don’t rule them invalid. So the dodginess spreads from the developers to the Council as planning authority.

    Re Park Beck, paragraph 133 of the NPPF is clear:

    133. Where a proposed development will lead to substantial harm to or total loss of significance of a designated heritage asset, local planning authorities should refuse consent, unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial harm or loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm or loss, or all of the following apply:
    ● the nature of the heritage asset prevents all reasonable uses of the site; and
    ● no viable use of the heritage asset itself can be found in the medium term through appropriate marketing that will enable its conservation; and
    ● conservation by grant-funding or some form of charitable or public ownership is demonstrably not possible; and
    ● the harm or loss is outweighed by the benefit of bringing the site back into use.

    Where are those public benefits? Where is the outweighing? Nonexistent. This application should be refused.

    Another instance is 32-36 Chapel Park Road, St Leonards (case HS/FA/16/00740) — a clear case of overdevelopment involving parking congestion and the destruction of ancient habitat (and dogged neglect of badger protection law). The developers are already selling the site on – at huge profit – on the basis of assumed planning approval. Are the planning authority fools or knaves?

    Comment by Andy Ammo — Thursday, Nov 3, 2016 @ 14:24

  4. Richard Heritage

    Another excellent article Bernard clearly outlining another threat to St Leonards area.
    How is it this application has got this far? Something so ridiculous a design in a Conservation area should have been rejected by the planning department in the first instance.
    The problem here as I see it is developers, land agents see this council as an easy touch to get permissions to raze buildings such as this and replace it with blots on the landscape. They know the planning committee is overall inept and weak.
    As mentioned in the article Archery Road a few minutes away is another classic example of sheer disregard for what James Burton created. Here there could have been a sensitive replacement of buildings where one eye sore ( the college ) has gone. But no that was just too much to expect from this council. The original development plan for that site back in 2007 would have been quite acceptable but the planning officer of that time, Tim Cookson said there were not enough units for the site and so it will end up like this Maze Hill application – if it gets passed two more carbuncles.
    just a total lack of sensitivity and professional standards with this planning department………….let along just common sense

    Comment by Richard Heritage — Tuesday, Nov 1, 2016 @ 11:52

  5. Ms. doubtfire

    There is time to comment but what is the point in commenting on any planning application in this town? The planning committee is in awe of the planning officers, they do not have the qualifications or intelligence to query what is put before them.

    It is very clear that this particular application contains many errors – some so serious that it would well behove the planners to halt further discussions until they have had a thorough look at the latest farcical drawings and descriptions of the area.
    We are the laughing stock of these unrelenting developers – they know they will be able to get away with whatsoever they want to build.
    Time to call a halt to this – we have had enough. Time for this council to be put into Special Measures so no further planning abuses can take place.

    And aka the West Hill Road travesty – how many people know that the so called ecology survey commissioned by these developers was carried out AFTER the site had been razed to the ground along with all ecological worth…wildlife, flora, trees – all gone. What value has an ecological survey after the land has been destroyed? Answer that one Hastings Borough Council.

    Comment by Ms. doubtfire — Monday, Oct 31, 2016 @ 17:21

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