Eastbourne planners refuse plea to demolish Victorian villa


A second bid to demolish and redevelop a Victorian villa has been refused by Eastbourne planners.

On Tuesday (December 11), Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected an application to knock down Kempston in Granville Road and build 16 flats in its place.

An almost identical application had been voted down by the committee in April, with councillors citing the loss of the former Great War hospital as one of its reasons for refusal.

However, councillors were told this reason could not be justified in planning terms as the building is not classed as a heritage asset and were recommended to approve the scheme.

Putting forward this argument for the applicant, planning agent Marie Nagy said: “This application is supported by additional transparent and robust information that fully addresses the reasons for refusal in April.

“Statutory consultees have reconfirmed their agreement and your officers have reiterated their recommendation to approve.

“Objectors however have unreasonably chosen to ignore the facts of the appraisals that have been provided, to focus on non-planning matters or make misrepresentations which would very quickly be called out at any appeal.”

Ms Nagy added that an independent appraisal, included within the new application, made it clear the building had been ‘extensively’ refitted in the 1950s and it was not heritage worth as a result.

She also said refurbishment of the building – instead of demolition – had been found to be financially unsustainable by an independent assessment.

Howeve,r concerns over this argument were raised by a number of public speakers, including the council’s heritage champion  Rebecca Madell and ward councillor Robert Smart (Con).

In his representation, Cllr Smart raised the possibility that the building could soon be included within the College Conservation Area, which is currently being considered for an extension.

However, committee members were advised not to consider this as a relevant factor as any extension would not move ahead until a public consultation could take place.

Officers also advised the committee how it could not base an objection on the principle of demolition, as the applicant is able to knock down the building without planning consent.

Despite this, committee members were reluctant not to refuse the scheme on the same grounds as the April application.

Conservative councillor Barry Taylor, who also represents Meads ward, said: “Can I just say I don’t sway to pressures coming from officers.  

“In my view this did go through this committee, it was refused and, if you remember chair, I asked to have a public meeting with the inspector if it did go through to appeal, so that the objectors would be able to give their views. 

“It would be a tragedy to see this building demolished, especially as it has already gone to this committee and we have already made a decision on it.”

Several other committee members shared similar views, however chairman Jim Murray (Lib Dem – Hampden Park) said the committee could not put forward both original reasons for refusal as it was not supported by planning law.

He also said the pressure was not from officers but from ‘the legalities’ of the planning process.

Following a further discussion the application was unanimously refused on the grounds it would be an over development of the plot, which does not respect the character and appearance of the area.

Huw Oxburgh, Local Democracy Reporting Service