Plans for interactive children’s play experience in Eastbourne refused

Proposals to open a ‘tiny town’ for children in Eastbourne have been rejected by council planners over concerns about its industrial location, writes local democracy reporter Huw Oxburgh.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 2:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 2:45 pm
Entrance to the site for the proposed children's play experience (photo from Google Maps Street View)

On Tuesday (January 21), Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee considered a change of use application seeking permission to open a interactive play experience alongside a cafe in place of a carpet showroom in Lottbridge Drove.

According to applicants, the business would have revolved around a mini-town made out of wooden buildings, where children could have enjoyed imaginary play.

The proposals had been recommended for refusal, due to planning officers’ concerns around its location within an industrial site and a lack of parking spaces on the site. 

But this view was not shared by the applicant Davie Langham, who argued that he and his partner Jodie had not been able to find any other appropriate premises in the town. 

He said: “We first started by looking for suitable places in Eastbourne and we just couldn’t find anything with the open plan we would need.

“The demand is very high. We have gone public on Facebook and Twitter and the demand we have had back is very high. 

“Regardless of where we go with this application, looking at other units, we are going to have this issue with the parking and the allocated parking plan. 

“The benefit we have with this [site] is the slip road [which offers additional parking spaces]”. 

Mr Langham also said the site was also nearby to a bus stop and the business would aim to encourage customers to use alternative forms of transport if possible.

He also said the business would be limited to 25 people on site at a time, with several play sessions staggered throughout the day. 

Ultimately, committee members shared the views of officers, raising concerns around small children being on a site where there was a potential for industrial uses taking place.

However, they also praised the business idea, with several councillors saying they hoped the applicants could find alternative premises elsewhere.

Cllr Robin Maxted (Lib Dem, Upperton) said: “I think it is a very good idea and I am sure there is demand for what you are proposing. 

“I don’t think it is unusual to find places like you are proposing in commercial and light industrial areas because of the type of building you require. 

“However, I did, along with some other councillors, visit the site and got the impression that these other two units on site are likely to be used for industrial or light industrial use. 

“I have a big problem with that because, as officers have said, the conflict it would have with your clientele and the other operations in this area.”

Similar views were aired by Cllr Barry Taylor (Con, Meads), who said: “This is in the heart of an industrial area [and] is very, very busy.

“It is a fantastic idea and I am sure kids will like it, but I really think this is the most inappropriate place to locate it.”

Following further discussion the committee unanimously refused the application.

For further details see application reference 190726 on the Eastbourne Borough Council planning website.