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At a meeting held by the Planning South Committee on Thursday 27 February at Wealden Council, history was made that will herald a new era for Pevensey Bay

The decision over the Beach Tavern site has been made. The committee of 12 elected councillors discussed the matter for less than ten minutes and approved the development by a vote of 6 to 4,

The decision will see a significant change in the profile of the village. The three storey block of flats, on the site of the Beach Tavern will dominate the scene, in the heart of the Bay, at a focal point for both residents and visitors.

With the decision will come a major change for both the perception and profile of Pevensey Bay.

What was once, as described by Cllr Johanna Howell, who opposed the plan at the meeting,  a ‘quaint’ setting for the village, will now radically change.

In terms of the everyday experience of local people who live, love, shop and frequent the cafes and enjoy the seaside experience and setting that they know and love, something new will now loom over their lives.

The scene will now have a new focal point at the end of the Eastbourne Road, scaling the three storey heights as the new landmark and reference point to help guide us on our way.

Whether what, as described by Cllr Johanna Howell as the ‘quaint setting’ will still be perecievd in the same way, remains to be seen. Whether this will be seen as a village setting at all will become a moot point, as other developers note the decision made today.

The decision took less than ten minutes and will mark the start of the next chapter in the story of Pevensey Bay.

Many people in the local community agreed that the Beach Tavern site had to be sorted out, after three years of decay.

The replacement of the Beach Tavern with a three storey block of flats was not a proposal that the people of Pevensey Bay envisaged as something that would enhance the scene and the character of the area.

That fact the decision was made in ten minutes after three years debate, gave counsel to the fact that we are now living in a new era.

Head of Planning and Environmental Services Stacey Robins invited the committee to approve the scheme based on the report by the planning officer.

He said “if you are not happy with the appearance and the bulk of the building, that is a refusal. “iI is”, a councillor was heard to say.

Local neighbour and resident, Roger McCall spoke as an objector, utiilsing his two minute slot.

He said…

“Here we go again; it is becoming tedious that this long running planning application is before the planning committee again in its third overdeveloped manifestation. There is a general rule that if you repeat actions again and again you get the same result. The message of the council some two and a half years ago was the development was too big, intrusive, overwhelming and a parking nightmare. The councils’ elected members turned the proposal down this action was backed up on appeal with a damming critique from the planning inspector.

This application has tried to unpick the planning inspectors comments and do the minimum to mitigate the inspectors comments. What has been now proposed is not enough if you have the time and money keep trying. During the 2017 planning decision process it was made plain to the applicant in person a two storey building was more acceptable with a streetscape in keeping with the surrounds. I ask the members of the council to be consistent so everybody knows how they stand.

This application has generated 106 comments from the public of which about 105 object to the development. It is an irony that the council’s planning officer has made a comment in support of the build by saying;- to quote “With the reduction in scale and massing of the building and alternative design to incorporate the appearance of a more 2-storey building with rooms in the roof.

It clearly is not a 2 storey building and top floor windows look down on the bedrooms of the neighbouring properties  There are no lift arrangements, the building has one bedroom flats at the top of a three storey stairway not the sort of high demand accommodation Pevensey Bay needs. Pevensey Bay should not need to put up with this unwanted over development at the heart of the village”.

A spokesman for the developer, Trevor Harman, who is the agent, then spoke. In his two minute slot he said with a straight voice, “this is not a three storey building, this is actually a two storey building with rooms in the roof.” The Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch with Michael Palin and John Cleese came to mind. In the sketch Michael Palin says, in a straight voice, with a roll up hanging from his mouth, “this is not a dead parrot, it is just sleeping” .

There was then a short discussion, Cllr Johanna Howell said again that this was clearly a three storey building and not in keeping with the scene,.

Grasping for a word that embraced her meaning with her oposition to the proposal, Head of Planning and Environmental Services Stacey Robin, interjected helpfully, “do you mean vernacular?”. “Yes”, said Cllr Johanna Howell, “that is exactly what I mean”.

Another councillor offered the view that the description of “a two storey building with rooms in the roof” was cheeky.

A third councillor described the proposal as a big improvement on the first proposal.

And that was that.

The discussion went to a vote in the packed agenda for the day and the vote was by 6 to 4 to approve the scheme.

In the ten minutes allotted, the Planning South Committee for Wealden District Council had changed the profile of the street scene of Pevensey Bay.

The three storey building will dominate the street scene.

The campaign against the development by people in Pevensey Bay has lasted over three years.

What the next chapter in the story of Pevensey Bay will mean for the people that live here and Pevensey Bay as a visitor destination is yet to be seen.

Waves of development have founded Pevensey Bay, From Innings Cottage built around 1600, the fishing village began to grow. The coaching Inn at the Castle had thrived by around 1830.

But plans to develop the village as a visitor destination really started in earnest in 1897 with the building of the Bay Hotel, with was was described at the time as the birth of ‘a health resort’.

The late Victorian era had already seen rows of cottages built here in the heart of the Bay.. The quirky Edwardian seafront saw interest in the Bay as an out of the way playground for the rich and some of the famous. Artists and musicians and socialites discovered the Bay.

The Pevensey and Westham Historical Society records information about Val Prinseps Road in Pevensey Bay.

They say, “It is slightly misspelled. It should be Val Prinsep Road, after the Victorian painter who lived there. They add “Val became a successful painter. Val entered the world of the very rich in 1884, when he married Florence Leyland (1859-1921), daughter of a shipping magnate. By the end of the decade, she and Val had acquired substantial property holdings in Pevensey Bay. There was a substantial tract of beachland and a coal yard, and the Prinseps began to build houses in the Bay.

“As an artist, Val liked to come down to Pevensey Bay and put London behind him. The Prinseps acquired a hut called Santa Claus, where they lived an informal life. Val died in 1904, and in 1907, Florence married a tennis player with the appropriate name of Ball-Greene. Her son, Nicholas Prinsep, left his mark on the Bay by building a modernist house, now known as Sandcastle. He married Anita Elson (1898- 1985), an actress who had starred in the 1924 Ziegfield Follies”.

The 1930s saw the art deco futuristic Beachlands estate built, with the birth of what was to have been a new town. With the explosion of Pevensey Bay as a setting for bungalow heaven, the seal was set on the rest of the twentieth century. The perception of Pevensey Bay grew as a quaint hideaway location. Generations of families came here to shrimp in the summer with grandparents. They filled their mantelpieces back home with three generations of nostalgic photographic memories.

In 1948, post second World War, the caravan site arrived and a new generation of holidaymakers arrived. The five star homes that we see on the Park Homes holiday site today with their stellar facilities, are the product of that boom.

In truth, Pevensey Bay has always changed, but what we see with the decision by the Planning South Committee at Wealden Council today is likely to have far reaching implications for the development of Pevensey Bay over the next few years.

The decision begins the next chapter in the story of Peveney Bay, that is yet to be written.

The last word in the campaign against the proposal for the Beach Tavern site, over the last three years, by the people of Pevesney Bay, is left to the gentle strength of long term resident, Elizabeth Beeney.

She lives with her husband and family, just 8.6 metres away from the proposed development. She left this message on the Bay Life newsfeed last night (26 February).

Opposition to the scheme over the last three years has been widespread, comprehensive and vociferous.

She spoke not just for herself last night, not just for her husband and family and not just for her neighbours, she spoke for the family of man and woman that is Pevensey Bay.

Whilst midnight may have been reached with the developers and their proposal at the Beach Tavern site, the beautiful sunset landscape in this quaint hidden jewel in the crown of Sussex was seen again tonight and the beautiful sunrise will be seen again tomorrow.

The campaign ends with the words of Elizabeth Beeney.

?Nothing has changed! It’s still a proposed ‘monstrosity’ in the most focal point of the village! Every time the rising sun shines its beauty through our bedroom window in the mornings, my heart breaks to think that greed and ignorance could take our light and privacy away.”
—Elizabeth Beeney, 26 February 2020