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Representatives of the five consultants working on the project gave an update on their work to the planning forum.

Representatives of the five consultants working on the project – from left, Maddox, Metropolitan Workshop, LUC, Alan Baxter and Ambiental – gave an update on their work to the planning forum.

Bulverhythe planning forum leaves questions unanswered

An update on the council’s proposed housing development on Bulverhythe recreation ground were provided at a pre-application planning forum this week. But although planning permission is expected to be sought in the spring, much about the project remains undecided, and many concerns raised by local residents are yet to be answered. Nick Terdre reports.

Representatives from the five specialist consultants participating in planning the project – Metropolitan Workshop (architect, masterplanner and lead consultant), Maddox (planning consultants), LUC (landscape architect), Alan Baxter (transport consultants) and Ambiental Environmental Assessment (flood specialists) provided updates on their work at a pre-planning application forum on Monday 13 January.

The meeting, held at Muriel Matters House before an audience of some 50-60, was chaired by Cllr Kim Forward and also counted on a the presence of case officer Stephanie Wood.

The scheme now incorporates 192 dwellings, up from 170 when Hastings Borough Council decided to push ahead with its own development on the Bulverhythe recreation ground off Bexhill Road in West St Leonards after the proposal for a sports complex on the site collapsed – no doubt the council is keen to achieve the maximum number of dwellings given the low rate of house-building in the borough.

As a greenfield site, a quota of 40% affordable housing is stipulated by council policy – that equates to 77 dwellings. These will be available for shared ownership or affordable rent (80% of the market rate). The other 125 units will be sold on the private market.

At a consultation last October, at which 87 comments were submitted and 42 questionnaires filled in, the main issues raised were the loss of open space, flooding and parking, Des Harrow from the Metropolitan Workshop told the meeting.

bulverhythe devt image 600

Housing will be arranged in a series of terraces running north-south.

Green band

He pointed out that a green band will be maintained between the new housing estate and the rear of the existing houses along Bexhill Road. This clearly did not impress some members of the audience given that most of the green space of the recreation ground will be lost. Nor were they impressed to be told that the open grassland has low ecological value, unlike other parts of the Combe Haven Countryside Park in which the site is located.

A new location for the several sports pitches on the site will have to be found by the developer – these will moved to the upper tier. There will be less than the present number, but with superior facilities such as the changing rooms, Max Plotnik of Maddox said.

The crucial issue, however, is the flooding to which the site is subject. “Given that this area has been the subject of historic flooding, how flood risk is assessed will be a key consideration in determining the application,” a report to Cabinet last July stated.

The site is classified by the Environment Agency as being in Flood Zone 3, indicating a high level of risk. The catchment area is complex, which includes the Combe Haven and Gorringe rivers, Pebsham stream and the Bexhill Road sewer. And climate change is making matters worse, flood risk consultant Daniel Cook from Ambiental told the meeting.

Potential mitigation measures

Potential mitigation measures include clearing the Bexhill Road sewer and upgrading the non-return valve located in it – this is intended to stop water flowing back through the valve, but appears not to be working properly. Bunds, or mounds, could also be built along the bank of the Combe Haven river to retain more of the waters when the level is high.

According to former councillor Mike Howard, now representative of the Bexley High Residents’ Association, the Combe Haven river is silted up, and a good dredging would improve the flow.

The number of parking spaces has been increased to 1.6 per home, equivalent to a total of 310, based on ESCC guidance, Michael Braden of Alan Baxter told the meeting. All will be located on site, mainly at a parking facility at the east end. The primary access to the site will not be from Bexhill Road, but from Freshfields Road, which runs up the west side of the site. The turning into Freshfields Road, taken by traffic heading for the recycling facility and the garden centre on Lewis Road to the left, will be rebuilt to handle larger flows.

View of Bulverhythe recreation ground from the sea.

View of the site (outlined in red) from the sea.

Local resident David Dennis, who lives opposite the recreation ground, asked why HBC was abandoning core values such as maintaining the green gap between Hastings and Bexhill. Cllr Forward replied that changes were being made during the process of updating the local plan, and that the overwhelming need now was housing.

Mr Dennis also queried why no proper investigation into the likely effect of the development on the local ecology had been made – Sussex Wildlife Trust had sent comments, opposing the project, but had received no acknowledgement. It turned out there has been some miscommunication, as missives sent by the planning team to Sussex Wildlife Trust had not been answered. Promises were made to remedy the situation.

He also warned that building bunds on the banks of the Combe Haven would cause a backflow up Powdermill Stream, creating a flood risk for the residents of Crowhurst.

Peter Clarke of the 300-strong Bulverhythe Protectors said that flooding already took place in cellars of the existing houses at times of heavy rain. He was also concerned that surface water running downhill from the landfill site over land which once served for dumping hospital waste was contaminated – various residents had reported their dogs becoming ill after being walked in the area at rainy times.

The water needed testing, he said, and if the planning consultants would not do it, the Bulverhythe Protectors would.

Far from a satisfactory proposal

“We’re a long way from a satisfactory proposal,” HOT was told by Chris Lewcock of Hastings Urban Design Group, who has worked with local residents on this project. “On a number of important issues they haven’t done their homework properly.” Until matters such as how to deal with surface water were decided, other issues such as the design of buildings – whether they need to be put on stilts, or equipped with basements intended to accommodate flood water – could not be finalised.

Archeology was also touched on but not adequately discussed at the meeting. Previous studies have indicated that the lower tier could be a worthwhile site for exploration, Lewcock said – Bulverhythe was once an important port.

That could put a spanner in the works schedule at a time when the council is under time pressure to start implementing the project, as the Homes England grant has to be fully drawn down and spent by 31 March next year. Planning permission is expected to be applied for in the spring, case officer Wood told HOT.

And what happens if the grant proves inadequate to cover the cost of the flood mitigation measures, Lewcock said – who pays the extra? Any extra cost would not be welcome to the council.

The total cost of the development was put at £40m last July, with a profit of £8m expected to be generated. This will be divided equally between the council and its housing association partner – talks have been held with Optivo about taking this role.


See also HBC proposes Bulverhythe housing project while United mull Hollington move

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Posted 17:54 Sunday, Jan 19, 2020 In: Home Ground


  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    This recent statement from the Environment agency ilustrates the feckless and irresponsible approach by Hastings council to this very serious problem.

    This article should be restored to the front page of this online is too early to consign it to the achives.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020 @ 10:46

  2. Richie Rich

    The question I have is who’s going to be silly enough to buy a property on a floodplain given all the bad press with little chance of insurance or at very high cost ?

    It looks like we have another situation arising where unsuspecting householders get hoodwinked into buying worthless properties they then become trapped in. Very similar to the high rise flat situation we have with private owners having to find the money for some quite astronomical bills for upgrading external cladding due to fire risk.

    In the long run these high-risk properties will be worthless shells that the council will have to take on as a liability for social housing…in which case the council tax payer will foot the bill for all future flood damage at the end of the day as they always do.

    I can only advise buyer beware, don’t become a victim.

    Comment by Richie Rich — Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020 @ 08:23

  3. Ms.Doubtfire

    Well well – all gone very quiet here…is it possible that the councillors have gone to ground after reading all about the recent disasters caused by building homes on flood plains…has this council learned nothing at all from the recent flooding disasters??? What does it take for them to actually sit up and listen to to the warnings versed recently.. Or are they just so arrogrant they will do whatever they want and too bad for the outcome?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Feb 25, 2020 @ 18:56

  4. Ms.Doubtfire

    Will householders be able to obtain insurance on these properties? Can someone answer this question please?

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Friday, Feb 7, 2020 @ 17:55

  5. DAR

    Heather – nail on head: it’s about revenue.

    Comment by DAR — Monday, Jan 27, 2020 @ 15:18

  6. Keith Piggott

    I chanced upon the HOT story covering Bulverhythe ‘planning forum’. Disbelief turned to contempt at yet another HBC costly pyramid of consultancies levied on local taxpayers, supinely to destroy their own recreational amenities, marsh ecology, Norman archeology, also defying the accumulated physical evidence of a floodplain vulnerable to every winter-lake extending up to 2 miles inland.

    HBC renewable-energy needs would be better served by creation of a tidal dam, that Coombe Haven natural harbour was in the 11th Century, i.e. before 13th Century storms created the shingle bank at Bulverhythe.

    Wartime plans of airfield construction with first hand account of excavating the prow of a Norman longboat were cited by Nick Austin in ’Secrets of the Norman Invasion’ (2012). That inspired me to walk and photograph the Coombe Haven winter phenomenon of navigable water extending to and around Crowhurst. I repeated the exercise from Pebsham landfill, at southern end of the winter-lake.

    Nick graciously accepted my photo-survey, he published two views on his website <>: wide-angle from Hillcroft Farm by Crowhurst looking south; and stitched-images from east to north-west taken from Pebsham landfill.

    Residents are entitled to know what Consultancies do not, or would conceal. Make what you will of them.

    Comment by Keith Piggott — Monday, Jan 27, 2020 @ 00:37

  7. Heather Grief

    A number of the houses along Bexhill Rd often have flooding problems, and many of them were built with the ground floor up several steps – it’s easy enough to notice this common phenomenon.
    Am I right in thinking that the Environment Agency can prevent housing developments on high flood risk sites? If so, all the money and effort spent so far will have been for nothing.
    Cllr Foreward said that housing is now HBC’s top priority (and it’s hard luck for parks, gardens and playing fields), but not why: they want the money from the New Homes Bonus, and from the Council Tax take on the new homes.
    I also object to new terraced housing being built.
    They should be semis, to make sure there’s enough daylight from windows in 3 walls, inside each house, including a bathroom with a window – it’s crazy to force people to put a light on in their living room all day (people in Little Ridge Ave terraced housing know what I’m talking about), or every time they go to the loo – and no window also means an extractor fan that comes on automatically as a result of switching on the bathroom light. Hardly zero carbon, is it?

    Comment by Heather Grief — Thursday, Jan 23, 2020 @ 13:54

  8. Bolshie

    A message for JJW about the flooding and the existing houses on Bexhill Road that are adjacent to this strip of land the council wants to develop.
    Yes there is a flooding issue there. I know someone who lives there and has water well into his back garden when the inclement weather hits the area.
    Its like that right down to the Saxons field at Bexhill Road and Filsham.
    On the next heavy rain fall go there yourself and you will see the extent of the flooding.
    That’s why the concern and why HBC is no King Canute.

    Comment by Bolshie — Thursday, Jan 23, 2020 @ 08:22

  9. JJW

    Sorry if I missed this but do the houses to the South of the development experience flooding? If not what is the difference between them and the proposed new housing directly behind them?

    Comment by JJW — Wednesday, Jan 22, 2020 @ 14:09

  10. Bolshie

    Yes Penny as you correctly point out, “Its a no brainer.” But you know HBC and their fixation with building on any open site they can pull it off. This is a prime example. A site so similar to this one is just along the road at the corner of Bexhill Road and Filsham. They call it Saxons. Under ESCC ownership some three or so years ago there was an intention to develop that site and a housing association was earmarked for it. However, it has pretty much identical issues as this Bulverhythe with a high water table and flooding. A serious and very expensive geo-technical report was executed and found significant problems that would make the site way too expensive to develop. They appear to have backed off that concept.
    I cannot see this one is really any different. Furthermore here we have a site adjacent to a old massive landfill with leachate water running off it. There must surely be some notable ground contamination there.
    As for the comment about the “elected representatives” not realising the folly and of course costs of this development will be solely down to the local party policy. Just like the intention to put a solar panel farm in the Country Park that like this idea is being backed up with an expensive report by more”consultants.” This Labour party are all for that going ahead, therefore if they are all for having houses on this precarious site, I expect they will get their way.

    Comment by Bolshie — Wednesday, Jan 22, 2020 @ 09:11

  11. Penny

    Hear hear.
    The clue is in the title, surely? FLOOD PLAINS is self-explanatory.
    Are the “consultants” and lead councillors aware of any insurance brokers who would take on future contracts for buildings on flood planes?
    It’s a no-brainer.

    Comment by Penny — Tuesday, Jan 21, 2020 @ 08:59

  12. ken davis

    I have experience some 25 years ago, as a senior officer in local government, of inheriting a very similar scheme to this. I knew from my first knowledge of it that it was an absurdity that it was bound to fail and that was not least from its name which was ‘Watercress Beds’ (it’s true?) but because the lead Councillors were wedded to it on the basis that ‘we are not building enough houses’. (Numbers, not quality, has long dominated where council housing has gone wrong since the second world war). Within a year of Watercress Beds being occupied it was flooded because there just happened to be exceptional rain that year and millions had to be spent of additional engineering works to solve the embarrassing cock-up.
    Now that we know there is a climate emergency all the calculations around flood risk are at large and no amount of storage lagoons up the hill (why not put the housing there?), pipes, pump, bunds etc will be of no avail because engineering calculations have no base. Of course, officers and consultants will do what they are being paid for i.e to justify the scheme, but should yet more scarce public money be thrown down the drain (!) when putting houses on a flood plain is so obviously bonkers even if our elected representatives can’t see it, and when other sites on higher ground are available?

    Comment by ken davis — Monday, Jan 20, 2020 @ 08:50

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