‘No grounds’ to block demolition of former First World War hospital

Campaigners opposed to the demolition of Kempston
Campaigners opposed to the demolition of Kempston

Town planners have been warned they do not have legal grounds to refuse the demolition of an historic Eastbourne home.

In a controversial move, which follows two unsuccessful attempts to replace the building with a new block of flats, developers have told planners they intend to demolish Kempston in Granville Road.

The developer’s plans are set to be considered by Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee next Tuesday (February 26), but planners have been warned there are ‘no grounds’ for such a demolition being blocked.

Campaigners have been fighting to save the property, while the town’s MP Stephen Lloyd, the Eastbourne Society and Meads Community Association have all spoken out previously.

In an officers’ report, a council planning spokesman said: “At the time of considering this submission the application property is not a Listed Building, the plot is not in a conservation area, the application has been submitted in accordance with the necessary legislation and thereby is accompanied with an appropriate method statement relating to its demolition.

“Given the above reasons officers are recommending that there are no grounds to withhold consent for the prior approval.”

In planning law, a developer can apply to demolish a building under permitted development rights (meaning they do not need planning permission).

While these rights have some limitations there are only a few reasons a planning authority can give for preventing permitted development.

For a demolition, they include: the building falling within a conservation area; the building being used as a drinking establishment; and/or the building being ‘rendered unsafe by a person having an interest in the land on which the building stands’.

According to council papers, none of these reasons currently apply.

The paper goes on to list a number of other possible grounds for the council to resist the proposals, but advises against each.

They include issuing a Building Preservation Notice, which is described as a ‘spot listing procedure’ where an application is submitted to Historic England for it to consider whether the building should be Listed.

Council officers advise against this, however, as it is thought there are not grounds for the building to be listed, despite its use as an auxiliary hospital during the First World War.

If a Listed Building application is unsuccessful the developer may also be able to seek compensation, the report warns.

In the report, officers also discuss refusing demolition on the grounds of the building being ‘rendered unsafe by a person having an interest in the land on which the building stands’.  

The report reads: “Demolition is not permitted if the building has been rendered unsafe or otherwise uninhabitable by the action or inaction of the owners.

“At the application stage supplementary reports outlined on viability grounds the costs of repair and upgrading the quality of the existing housing stock.

“Notwithstanding these reports it could be argued that the owners have to some extent deliberately and wilfully run down the quality of the building and as such it does not now provide safe habitable accommodation.

“There is no justification on health and safety grounds that the building should be demolished.

“This ground, if pursued, is not certain of success and could be challenged on appeal and if not supported by the appeal inspector would be the source of a cost claim for unreasonable behaviour.”

The report also notes the proposals to extend the College Conservation Area, but says it is too early for the proposals to affect the application.

The application is to be considered at a meeting of the Eastbourne Borough Council planning committee on Tuesday, February 26.