Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
The proposed new Park Beck building.

The proposed new Park Beck building.

Park Beck owners seek five-storey rebuild

The previous proposed eyesore for the Park Beck building on Upper Maze Hill was eventually withdrawn. Now a new blot is proposed. Bernard McGinley looks around the conservation areas.

In 2016 the threat to redevelop Park Beck at 21 Upper Maze Hill was reported here. The application was eventually withdrawn, but a new proposal has been made (planning ref HS/FA/18/00006) and awaits a decision by Hastings Borough Council (HBC).

Side elevation of proposed building; the front is to the right (from document Proposed Elevations).

Side elevation of proposed building; the front is to the right (from document Proposed Elevations).

The two-storey Victorian building that is Park Beck – a cottage orné dating from 1877is threatened with an overbearing lump of five storeys over an underground car park.

Upper Maze Hill is part of James Burton’s 1830s turnpike from Silverhill to the present Royal Victoria Hotel. The Hill still has its nineteenth-century charm, with buildings set back and many trees, as travellers going south finally come in sight of the sea. St John the Evangelist church (listed as Grade 2 starred) and Caple-ne-Ferne (Grade 2) are close to the site of the proposed development, for 36 flats of an extra care home, that look convertible to luxury flats.

The last application was noticeably poor and inaccurate, and so is this. The massing, materials, design and appearance of the proposed building are all unsatisfactory.

Without discussion or explanation, the building line of Upper Maze Hill has been moved forward in the new application.

In their application form (Section 9), the owners state that, ‘The existing care home and residential building has fallen into disrepair and is of little architectural merit’. (Whose fault is that?, many wonder, while disagreeing with the second point.) Central government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear on this point however:

130.     Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of or damage to a heritage asset the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any decision.

A dubious methodology discusses residents’ projected traffic but not staff’s, or their work shifts.

Tree loss, etc.

The application’s Tree Survey Report  suggests (para 4.2) that only seven trees are to be lost ‘to enable the proposed development’, but a closer look reveals many more. Local badgers look to be affected too, for the worse.

The notification of neighbours was badly incomplete. Residents of Caple Gardens, backing onto the proposed development, were not informed.

The present building, which dates from 1877.

The present building, which dates from 1877.

Some of the architectural drawings, including elevations, are displayed sideways on the website, as if to hinder an understanding of what is being proposed.  

Points of view

Objections can still be made to the Council.  Grounds for objection need to be planning-related to be considered.  The Hastings Development Management Plan has plenty, including:  

Policy HN1   Development affecting the Significance and Setting of Designated Heritage Assets, including Conservation Areas

Policy DM1   Design Principles

Policy HN3   Demolition involving Heritage Assets.

Beyond this Hastings plan is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  Here paragraph 64 is also relevant:

  1. Permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area and the way it functions.

That the site is part of the Markwick Terrace Conservation Area (No 13) should count for a lot, at least in theory. HBC Policy EN1 (Built and Historic Environment) states ‘There is a presumption in favour of the conservation of heritage assets and their settings’.

The developers’ Heritage Statement boldly asserts (Par 8.1.2):

Post-development this would constitute a neutral impact on the conservation area and setting of nearby listed buildings and have no continuing impact on the significance of any assets concerned.

but others in agreement with this statement are hard to find.

The view from Market Street: new building with uPvc windows.

The view from Market Street: new building with uPvc windows in a conservation area.

The assessment of the Council’s Conservation Officer is keenly awaited, with hope for a recommendation of refusal. Against this, however, there are precedents such as the development of Market Passage near the bottom of London Road (in Conservation Area 5, St Leonards East), complete with uPvc windows endorsed by the Council.

Spirit of place

Unlike many residents of the Borough, the Council appears to lack civic pride. The new Heritage Strategy (together with the Hasting [sic] Heritage Report) seems more concerned with platitudes and funding partners than with protecting and nurturing what is exceptional about St Leonards and Hastings. The would-be developers of Park Beck talk about a neutral impact: why shouldn’t new buildings have a positive impact?  (And not by being ‘in keeping’.) 

Similarly the Council has a newish revised Planning Protocol being discussed this month at HBC Cabinet. Amid all the burble about openness and transparency, Paragraph 48 warns sternly:

Councillors shall not put improper pressure on Officers to make a particular recommendation and should not do anything which compromises, or is likely to compromise, the officers’ impartiality.

But there is nothing about the converse, or about the tricky area of appeals by applicants and developers against refusal of planning permission. HBC planning officers are noticeably reluctant to undertake such appeals or represent Council members at them.

Worse, the last page (Appendix 1) is a nark’s form, for councillors to report members of the public who lobby them their elected representatives about any particular planning application. Is this what local democracy has come to?


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Posted 21:49 Sunday, Apr 8, 2018 In: Home Ground


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  1. Bolshie

    What I find peculiar about this application is how there was one filed for about the same last year and refused for several reasons. One of the significant ones being this building and the area falls within that planning speak a “Conservation Area.” If that is so, then why are these applicants allowed to come back for a second go. Mind you if one takes a short walk from this location to Archery Road and the environs of James Burton, the term “Conservation area” means nothing to the planning department or in fact the council as a whole.

    While Icarus raises the termination of planning application letters to applicable residents. It is also worth noting how the number of objections of three for an application to go to committee and not be delegated is now FIVE. And not stopping there the time allowed for someone to voice their objection at a committee meeting has been reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes. And to cap it now this “Socialist” run council has informed its councillors they must inform the council – I guess officers of those lobbying them on planning applications.
    What will be next to restrict and monitor us the masses. There certainly chipping away.

    Comment by Bolshie — Thursday, Apr 12, 2018 @ 16:58

  2. Keith Piggott (Icarus)

    Bernard McGinley makes valid even telling points, I do not know the site nor the background, but I suspect he knows from past experience that this planning bureaucracy is entirely deaf to reason, I might suggest their being in thrall to property developers’ venal persuasions.

    Ms Doubtfire speaks of reigning in ‘feckless’ behaviour of our planners, implying a rudderless steerage, whereas most characterise their behaviour as deliberate, even willfull, steerage of developers’ interests.

    Both McGinley and Doubtfire cite right concerns at the disconnect between ‘representation’ and ‘democratic lobbying’, the irony being to preserve the alleged ‘impartiality’ of Officers -implicitly blacklisting democratic lobbyists on some covert malign data base.

    Whenever have petty bureaucrats been impartial? Certainly not through 2012-2016 when false plans of this property were created to relocate agreed physical also historic and 1892 covenanted legal boundaries by several meters, to assist flawed planning applications then abet developers’ ultimate annexation of land to enable development in the ‘buffer zone’ of designated ancient woodland – contrary to all their policies. And not in 1996/7 when a named Officer was to investigate complaints and liase with Sussex Police about illegal night shoots in Spyway’s woodland, (in 2000 Hastings Badger Survey found several baiting pits), who later denied any recollection, knowledge of, or records of those complaints, investigations, or his liasing with the Sussex Police (who admitted deleting their own records). I provided copy correspondence.

    Senior severances at end of 2015 seemed to indicate a long observed endemic ‘corruption’ was beginning to be rooted out, but it seems that judgement was premature also flawed.

    If our elected Councillors are being ‘warned off’ against residents’ lobbying then the tail now is wagging the dog and it is high time for a purge of unaccountable entrenched individuals, i.e. whether partial Officers or their suborned Councillors in thrall.

    And do they not realise residents are the electorate? Whereas, however affluent generous and liberal all their partner consultants, developer companies, or other ‘legal entities’, might well be, they cannot cast a single vote between them. There will be a reckoning.

    I do not recall verbatim, but did not Hottie in 2017 feature the Leader of this Council himself putting forward a fanciful Hastings Harbour scheme in which he expressly posited political ‘representation’ had no need to consider residents’ views? He’ll make a great MP then, like Blair’s premeditated invasion of Iraq while two million residents filed through London to pre-empt that misguided war.

    Now my Councillor tells me the finance committee has stopped planning notices to residents, on grounds of cost, so instead planners festoon often inaccessible street posts of all types with tied-on notices that create hazards for motorists and pedestrians alike, and often as not allow applications to go unnoticed and without comment or petition by affected residents. Qui bono?

    I say to the McGinleys and Doubtfires, get real, try to understand and accept the fact that over three decade the values and practices of the EU’s bureaucracies have been instilled and distilled into our own local authority. If you voted for it, then live with it.

    Keith Piggott (Icarus)

    Comment by Keith Piggott (Icarus) — Thursday, Apr 12, 2018 @ 01:11

  3. Ms.Doubtfire

    Mondays are historically classified as the least desirable day of the week. This article certainly has made this Monday a very sad day indeed.
    Is there nothing the residents of this town can do to rein in the feckless behaviour of our planners?
    Now we learn our elected councillors are to be warned that they ‘shall not put pressure on Officers…..and should not do anything which compromises or is likely to compromise the Officers impartiality…”
    Many would say it is precisely this lack of impartiality on planning decisions which is questionable and needs investigation.

    To all intents and purposes it appears the planning department is absolutely determined to prevent residents from having their democratic right to voice their concerns on planning issues…so difficult now to source new planning applications, new draconian rules about time allowed for objectors to present their case to the Committe limiting the time for the presentation to only three minutes instead of the previously awarded five minutes, and now a decision has been made to refuse referral to the planning committee unless at least six objections are lodged as opposed to the previous three objections requirement.
    We could be forgiven in thinking there is a concerted effort here to close down all democratic processes in our planning department.
    Who is really looking after the historic interests of our town? It certainly is not those we elected.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, Apr 9, 2018 @ 08:59

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