Outcry over decision to approve Langney housing development

There was an outcry in Eastbourne Town Hall this week as planners approved controversial proposals for a housing development in Langney. 

Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 4:55 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th December 2019, 5:09 pm
Derelict Woods Cottages in Swanley Close, Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-160713-140117008

On Tuesday (December 10), Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously approved proposals to build 35-home development at the former Woods Cottages site off of Langney Rise.

The proposals had sparked controversy among residents of Swanley Close, with neighbours in dispute about how to access the site from their quiet residential road. 

The dispute around access began with an earlier version of the application, which came before the committee in October. 

Swanley Close, Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-160713-140234008

This earlier version of the scheme proposed to access the site via the north end of Swanley Close, which is currently a dead end.

However, this had proven to be highly unpopular with residents of the road, with many objectors raising fears around the potential disruption and arguing the narrow roads would cause safety issues. 

In light of these objections, the planning committee opted to defer the application at the meeting in October and asked developers to propose an alternative access plan.

Following this developers put forward an alternative proposal,  with an access road running from the south of the site rather than the east. 

Amended plans for housing off Swanley Close

However, this access route also proven unpopular, particularly with residents living at the other end of Swanley Close. 

The alternative scheme was also criticised for its loss of woodland, although officers said this was acceptable ‘on balance’.

Residents had also argued the alternative access road would pose additional flooding risks, although this view was not shared by officers.

Among those to object to the alternative scheme was Swanley Close resident Amanda Rock. Speaking at the meeting, she said: “An access road at the south side is overloading the close, when the already highways-approved north side road access makes complete sense.

“All the residents have driveways and with the addition of some road parking restrictions Ruxley Court could use their provided car park.

“Why sacrifice woodland and increase the flood risk just for an access point when one exists in the right location?

“We implore you to reconsider a north side entrance to this scheme and to defer this decision pending further assessment of the environmental damage, flood and safety risks.”

Despite these concerns from residents, the committee felt the alternative scheme was acceptable and approved the scheme following a short discussion.

Cllr Candy Vaughan said: “Last time this came we were asked by residents to change the access route. Now they want to change it again. 

“You can’t please all of the people all of the time unfortunately, but I think the access that is there is much better than the first application.”

The decision was met with dismay from a packed public gallery, with one objector shouting at councillors as she left the chamber.

When told by committee chairman Jim Murray that he “did not accept comments from the floor”, she replied “I know won’t, but you will.”

In all the approved scheme would be comprised of 11 flats, 19 three-bedroom houses and five four-bedroom houses.

Of these, developers say they would be able to provide five three-bedroom houses as affordable housing. 

While this falls below the national target, planning officers say they intend to negotiate this number as part of any Section 106 legal agreement.

Two other housing developments in the area surrounding Swanley Close were also up for consideration at the same meeting.

The first site was immediately to the north of the Woods Cottage site, on land currently used as a small overspill carpark for Langney Shopping Centre.

Following a short discussion the nine-house scheme, which is to be accessed via the shopping centre and on to Langney Rise, was unanimously approved.

While approved, the developer would be required to provide plans to mitigate flooding before planning permission is granted. 

The committee had also considered a third application in the immediate area. That scheme saw developers seeking planning permission to build 10 houses on the site of a former valet car service, behind the Esso petrol station at the Langney Shopping Centre.

Like the original Woods Cottages plans, the scheme also proposed to use the north end of Swanley Close as its main access road to the site. 

This proposal also saw objections raised by residents in that part of Swanley Close, who pointed out the valet service had been accessed via Langney Shopping Centre.

While they heard this existing access used a private road, planners opted to defer the scheme and direct officers to see if an alternative access point could be found