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beach tavern, image credit, jan barronn

image credit: Jan Barron

This week marks three years since the first application was lodged to develop the Beach Tavern site into a three storey flat complex in Pevensey Bay

No decision has been made about a second application, WD/20/2018/1320/F dated 18 June 2018. The second application was not demonstrably different from the first application, we were still seeing plans for a three storey flat complex.

Villagers have been puzzled about why no decision has been made about the future of what is widely regarded as a pivotal site.

Opposition to the development has been comprehensive across the village.

On 8 May 2017, local resident, Martin Beeney, whose family live just eight metres from the proposed development said, “it will be the beginning of the end for the village if this building goes ahead”.

The Planning Inspectorate reached a decision to dismiss the appeal by Mr. R Foss, with regard to the proposed first development of the Beach Tavern site. in January 2018.

The decision to dismiss the appeal was no doubt read with relief by the 500+ people that signed a petition against the proposed development and the 22 objectors to the scheme that wrote to Wealden Council, and broadly, the community of Pevensey Bay.

Sheila Holden, the Inspector who wrote the report dismissing the appeal on behalf of the Inspectorate, explained that the main issues were;

a) the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area;
b) whether or not the proposal would result in the unacceptable loss of a site in commercial use.

In conclusion she said, “the Framework also advises that planning decisions should ensure that developments establish a strong sense of place, which will function well and add to the overall quality of an area over the long term.

“I was not satisfied that the proposal would achieve these objectives, even though I concluded that the loss of the Beach Tavern would be acceptable. This leads me to conclude that the adverse impacts of the proposal would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the Framework as a whole. It would therefore not be a sustainable development.

“The use of this previously developed site to provide eight flats does not amount to a material consideration that outweighs the conflict with the development plan. For this reason, and having regard to all other relevant matters raised, I conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.

The critical point made by the planning inspector was that the proposed development had no sense of place.

Nothing about the second application appears to have changed the perception of local people with regard to what is planned..

So why has a decision not been made about the application dated 18 June 2018?

The Wealden Council Planning Committee South meeting to be held this month, once again makes no mentoin of the application.

The answer to what is happening has been revealed yesterday (7 January 2020) to an enquiry from an adjoining neighbour.

In the response given by Ralph Forder on behalf of Wealden Council, the officer responsible for communications with neighbours about the circumstances with regard to the proposal, he says,

Application No. WD/2018/1320/F

I am writing to you in connection with the above application for planning permission since you have previously lodged representations about the proposal.

Whilst the application has been submitted for some time now, it remains a live application. We have not processed the application for various reasons, not least because of the evolution of the preferred strategy in the Submission Wealden Local Plan 2019. That Plan has recently been declared unsound and the Examining Inspector has recommended it be withdrawn.

He adds, “If you have any further comments to make about the proposed application, then please submit them within 14 days of the date of this letter”.

What are we to make of the convoluted response from Wealden Council?

The first point is that clearly, a decision has not yet been made.

The second point is that if we decode the statement,“we have not processed the application for various reasons, not least because of the evolution of the preferred strategy in the Submission Wealden Local Plan 2019. That Plan has recently been declared unsound and the Examining Inspector has recommended it be withdrawn, we get a plain English conclusion Wealden Council has a problem with their Local Plan 2019.

The third point is that the officer explains that all comments by neighbours have to be submitted by 21 January 2020.

The logical conclusion to make is that as comments close, we will then move to a decision on the application.

Whilst appreciating the point that Wealden Council finds their deliberations about planning applications are in a difficult position, nothing alters the fact that the worry, fear and despair expressed by many residents in Pevensey Bay about the future of the village have been very real concerns for three long years.

Wealden Council is to be applauded for the way in which they are communicating transparently with local residents this week about the complications with regard to the question of what is to become of the site development proposal.

Having said that, clearly enough is enough after three years. Presumably after 21 January, we can move quickly to a decision over the latest application.

The profile of Pevensey Bay is changing. The million pound investment in the adjacent Bay Hotel is a game changing sympathetic restoration .

The restoration is impeccable in terms of what has been done.

Already new visitors are appearing at the hotel, this year will see the hotel profiling the work to a new audience.

The restoration has the potential not just to change the fortunes of the hotel, but the fortunes of Pevensey Bay.

Beside both the hotel and the Beach Tavern, the new lease on the property of historic note, Anderida House, to an established bike shop enterprise has breathed new life into this important part of the Bay. Two new niche retail enterprises may also be joining us this year, the first is a florist, again in this key part of the heart of the village.

With the Beach Tavern, we even had the indignity of the Parish Council having to step into the debate to help see the site was cleaned up in the Autumn of 2019. A visit by environmental officers from both Wealden and and Rother Council expressed concerns about the state of the site from an envoironmental perspective.

The proposal for the Beach Tavern site has come into sharp relief this year. After three years a decision must now be made over the future of the pivotal site in the Bay. As comments close on 21 January, we will now move to a final decision on the proposal.

There never was a case for the development of a three storey flat complex on the site.

What the restoration of the Bay Hotel has done is to have brought this point home..

Without a strong sense of place that would have added to the overall quality of the area, the Beach Tavern proposal was always a non-starter.