Former Eastbourne hospital will be demolished

Construction work in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-191206-125344008
Construction work in Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-191206-125344008

Developers have been given the go ahead by a government inspector to demolish a Victorian villa and former hospital in Eastbourne.

Kempston in Granville Road has been the subject of a long and bitter battle between Eastbourne council and Associated Property Owners, the holding company which owns the building.

The firm has applied to Eastbourne council’s planning committee three times with a bid to knock down the premises, currently divided into eight flats.

Two of the applications have included plans to replace it with new flats.

Councillors have always refused the applications citing the loss of the former Red Cross hospital as one of its reasons for refusal.

Because councillors went against the advice of planning officers who told them their reasons could not be justified in planning terms as the building is not classed as a heritage asset, the council will have to pay the costs of the appeal which is likely to run into thousands.

The council claimed APO had deliberately let the building, empty for the last six months since the last tenant left in December 2018, become uninhabitable or unsafe.

Campaigners led a high profile protest to save Kempston, especially after discovering it was used as a hospital in the First World War, and instead wanted APO to refurbish it.

But announcing the decision, the planning inspector said there was not enough evidence to find APO “purposefully allowed the property to fall into disrepair in order to force tenants to leave” and demolition should go ahead.

Kempston was opened as a hospital in March 1915 by Mrs Davies-Gilbert and Miss Helena Catherine Sulman, commandant of the Red Cross Detachment Sussex/118. Soldiers from the UK, Europe and Commonwealth countries were brought to Eastbourne from Dover on trains, and nearly 3,000 were treated at the hospital, many receiving operations in the operating theatre.