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Picnic protesters in front of the Bunker.

Picnic protesters in front of the Bunker.

Picnic protest against the Bunker

The Save Ecclesbourne Glen group, which has led public opposition to the unauthorised Bunker built at Rocklands Caravan Park, has registered to make a submission to the hearing of the appeal by the Rocklands owner against the council’s enforcement order to have the building demolished. The latest display of public anger against the Bunker, and the council’s handling of the matter, came at the protest picnic held in Hastings Country Park, which was attended by roving reporter Richard Price.

Hundreds of people attended the Save the East Hill Picnic Protest on June 28 on the East Hill, just to the west of the Bunker. Families enjoyed food, drink and sunshine whilst making a point. They are unhappy, to put it mildly, with developments at Rocklands Caravan Park and the building colloquially referred to as the Bunker that continues as a blot on the landscape despite an enforcement notice for its demolition issued by the council.

Protesters brought colourful banners and tempting hampers containing bottles of wine and goodies such as pork pies and sandwiches.

picnic2They were quick to tell our reporter why they were protesting. Film-maker Daniel Tunn said, “I am here because I used to value the country park so much. I used to tell people that they could walk from my house up the steps and along the top of the cliffs for five miles without seeing a building. It was amazing to have that in the south of England. Now you can’t and I have to get in the car with my dog.”

“This is one of my favourite places around Hastings,” said local resident Sally Phillips. “I have done so many walks here with visitors over many years. To see it being wrecked is a complete disaster. I want to see the Bunker gone and some trees put up, trees to replace what has been knocked down.”

All five candidates for the county council by-election were in attendance. Conservative candidate Robert Cooke said, “I am here to support the protesters in their fight to get rid of the building and with the other aim to try to get the path back. This is the wrong place for building. Over the last year we have been putting pressure on the borough council. I think we need a full and thorough review of the entire planning department. This is a symptom of the problem rather than the overall problem. You only have to look at the recent Queensway Gateway Road with the wrong evidence being given there to see that there needs to be a thorough review of the whole department. I support this campaign and so does my party, the Conservative Party.”

The Green Party’s Andrea Needham said, “I am here because I am concerned about the destruction of green spaces here in Hastings and I support this campaign. I oppose the retrospective planning application and have been involved quite peripherally in this campaign. I think it is really important.”

She is concerned about the “vast landslip” that has totally destroyed the glen and  looks like occurring again. “It seems likely that the landslip has been caused by the hardstanding being built and trees being chopped down, which has resulted in water just pouring down the glen,” she said. “There appears to be no accountability, they have done all that and are they being prosecuted? Is there an investigation? I don’t know. This is a really important part of Hastings Country Park and you can’t walk along the coastal footpath and enjoy the view. You get as far as the landslide. I think it is appalling that no one is held to account for it. They have been doing all this stuff, the hardstanding and the caravans, regardless of the consequences.”

The last planning application was refused in March. Enforcement action was taken by Hastings Borough Council (HBC) and as expected the case has gone to appeal. The Save Ecclesbourne Glen (SEG) group, which came up with the idea of the picnic protest, are preparing to support HBC’s case for having the building removed.

picnic3In March the planning committee voted unanimously to reject a planning application to retain the Bunker as a holiday let. The planning department were obliged to issue an enforcement notice. SEG are concerned that when decisions are made by the planning committee, developers often appeal and the planning department fails to fight appeals.

“If the appeal process is transparent than I am very sure that the Bunker will be removed,” said SEG spokesman Chris Hurrell. “There are many other unauthorised developments at Rocklands, including roads, terracing, hardstanding, drainage, solar panels and a storage building that has been there since 2010. We think that the planning department have been aware of the storage building since 2010 as planning applications reference the building. HBC actively chose to ignore it until the four-year period had run out. Then the owners applied for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC).

“We believe that this sets a dangerous precedent for all the other unauthorised developments and fear that no enforcement action will be taken on them by HBC. We believe that the time period for an LDC should be 10 years and not four years. On this basis the LDC should be refused.”

Architectural restorer Michael Madden said, “I feel we are making some progress on the landslip issue as HBC admit that it is not a natural disaster and that Rocklands had something to do with it. I would like to see the building gone. I would like them to do the basic, which is to re-channel some of the water away from the hardstanding. We asked them to do that last June. It is undemocratic, frustrating and ludicrous. There are conflicts of interest everywhere, it makes me so angry. The whole thing that is going on all the way around Hastings with green areas is undemocratic and needs resisting.”

The campaign to save the glen looks set to continue. Picnic protests may become an annual event enjoyed by families for years to come.

 

All photos by David Degruchy-Jones.

See also: Country Park ‘bunker’: protest picnic

Posted 20:34 Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 In: Home Ground

2 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Fiona Kennedy

    I agree with all the above comments and want to register my support for the SEG protesters as could not get to the protest although went to last year’s. I have seen the ‘blight’ once more this week, and am again filled with dismay at how hideous it is and totally out of keeping with the surroundings. Get rid of it now HBC, and start proving you care about protecting our beautiful countryside, and about us, the residents of Hastings and and surrounding area, and our views. Start proving to us that you are honest, courageous and caring enough to fight the developers, when they clearly are in the wrong, and stop muzzling us, the public, whom you always promise to listen to but have failed to do so in recent issues concerning development. Stop wrecking but start preserving and protecting the countryside from greedy people. WE can’t put it back once it’s gone.

    Comment by Fiona Kennedy — Wednesday, Aug 5, 2015 @ 20:13

  2. Bruce Nicol

    Let’s get rid of this architectural blight on the horizon once and for all

    Comment by Bruce Nicol — Wednesday, Jul 22, 2015 @ 17:14

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