THE LONG-running saga about future building at Sovereign Harbour took an unexpected twist this week with all parties reaching a consensus over further developments.
A public exhibition of preferred locations will now be held at the Sovereign Harbour Club on August 22 between 4pm and 7pm to give everyone the opportunity to express their views.
Residents will be invited to complete a questionnaire about the scheme. A web-based consultation will run for three weeks from August 12 to September 2.
At a recent meeting chaired by Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd there was strong commitment to an all-party initiative concerning the harbour completion, with the emphasis on ensuring new and improved community facilities are at the heart of any further building plans.
Leaders of both political groups, the three new Sovereign ward councillors, senior officers of the council and members of the Sovereign Harbour Residents Association (SHRA) attended the meeting and all agreed any future development at the harbour must be sustainable and in the best interest of residents.
Consensus was reached that any plans must include, as an absolute priority, a purpose-built community centre located at the heart of the harbour, children’s play areas, several public open spaces, and the completion of the promenade from Atlantic Drive to the harbour arm.
The development of the Sovereign Harbour Waterfront and marina as tourist destinations, and the creation of ‘clean jobs’ by developing a business park on the commercial sites were also considered to be vital, not only for the benefit of the local community, but for Eastbourne in general.
A strictly limited amount of sympathetically-located residential development, of the appropriate mix, could be accommodated, subject to the normal planning process, and a community centre of an appropriate size would be delivered before any residential development was started while other community facilities must also be provided.
In 2006, following the refusal of planning applications for further residential development, a cross party motion was unanimously agreed by Eastbourne Borough Council calling for a masterplan for the completion of the Sovereign Harbour development that would incorporate all of the remaining development land, but would include no further residential development.
Five years on, with no plan having been produced, Sovereign Harbour residents attended the Neighbourhood 14 consultation event on the draft Local Development Framework, in very large numbers, expressed their concerns about the unsustainability of their community.
Recognising the strength of feeling within the community, Mr Lloyd convened a meeting to address the issues and seek a way forward.
SHRA chairman Rick Runalls said, “It has taken a lot of heart searching for the SHRA committee to endorse this solution but we concluded we now have the prospect of seeing the harbour development completed with many of the facilities that residents need.
“The alternative is more wasted years, with little guarantee of greater success. I hope residents will grasp this opportunity, which we believe will strengthen our community.”
Mr Lloyd said, “I’m delighted with the strength of the new partnership between the SHRA and both the political parties on the council.
“We have all taken a significant step forward in the work to deliver much needed community facilities in Sovereign Harbour.
“My thanks go to everyone involved for their constructive contributions to this process.”
Council leader David Tutt said, “It is my belief we can only make progress on the issues which are important for Harbour residents by all parties coming together to agree the way forward.
“I am grateful to everyone involved in this initiative for the time and effort that they have given to ensure that we move forward together.”
Conservative group leader David Elkin added, “Community facilities for the Harbour are long overdue and at this late stage in the Harbour’s development, it is imperative we take this opportunity to ensure their delivery. Working together we can make things happen.”
The council’s chief executive Robert Cottrill said, “I am delighted that we are now making positive progress towards a sustainable solution.
“We are determined to seize upon this new momentum and, by working in partnership with the SHRA, pave the way for facilities to serve generations to come.”