Plans for a new community centre in Eastbourne have suffered a major setback after severe contamination was discovered on the proposed site.
Permission to build the new Sovereign Harbour Community Centre – on land near Harbour Quay known as site five – was granted last year as part of a Section 106 agreement between housing developers and Eastbourne Borough Council.
But developers now say the project – which had been expected to break ground several months ago – cannot continue after widespread contamination from a nearby landfill was discovered on the site.
While the developers are legally obliged to make another site available and say they now hope to finish building the centre by spring 2017, residents have voiced fears over further delays to the long-awaited project
Jan Weeks, chairwoman of the Sovereign Harbour Residents Association (SHRA) said, “Considering the speed – or lack of it – of the planning process, and our previous experience of planning officers and the land owner, the prospect of the centre being open in the spring of 2017 is just pie in the sky.
“We are hugely disappointed, but not surprised. This was always on the cards as soon as planning officers allowed the land owner to negotiate a S106 agreement that removed the safeguards in the SPD [Secondary Planning Document] and introduced the option of an alternative site.
“They had every opportunity to enforce the provisions of the SPD and – despite our objections – went ahead with the agreement. Consequently, despite the requirement of the SPD that a community centre should be provided prior to the construction of any residential development, planning consent has now been granted for all 150 residential dwellings that it allowed.
“This council has, to its shame, as so many times before, put the interests of the developers before those of Sovereign Harbour residents.
“It is difficult to understand their motivation and even more difficult to believe that they were unaware of the impact this fiasco would have on the sustainability of the Sovereign Harbour neighbourhood.
“Sadly what little confidence and trust that remained has now totally evaporated.”
Eastbourne Borough Council says an alternative site has been found – near the Sovereign Harbour medical centre – and a meeting to consider design options will be held before the end of March.
A new planning application will be submitted shortly afterwards.
Alongside this process the developers – SeaChange Sussex – will be preparing tender documents for a contractor to construct the centre as soon as possible.
Councillor David Tutt, leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, said, “I am bitterly disappointed the original site was found to be unsuitable. However, as a result of a Section 106 planning condition the owners of the land are obliged to make this alternative site available.
“This is very much a fallback position and I know that it will not please everybody but I am grateful to SeaChange Sussex for identifying the problems and acting swiftly to plan for the alternative site.
“I believe that it is important for us all to continue working together to ensure that the centre becomes a reality as this will be a great asset for people living in Sovereign Harbour.”
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