Appeal to build housing in place of former Burwash nursing home won’t be contested

Rother District Council will not contest a developer’s appeal over plans to build housing in place of a former nursing home in Burwash. 

Friday, 21st May 2021, 5:19 pm

The decision was taken at a meeting on Thursday (May 20), where the council’s planning committee discussed proposals to demolish the former Ashwood Nursing Home in Heathfield Road and build 12 flats and houses in its place.

The committee heard how the developer behind the scheme, Artemis Design and Build Ltd, had lodged an appeal on the grounds the council had failed to make a decision on the proposals within the statutory time limit.

As a result, planning officers had recommended that the council should defend itself at appeal on the grounds that the scheme was not acceptable in current state and would not be recommended for approval.

The former nursing home in Burwash

Committee members felt differently, however, with several councillors arguing that they felt that the scheme was acceptable in principle and that the remaining issues could be resolved during the appeal process if necessary.

Cllr Mary Barnes (Con, Hurst Green and Ticehurst) said: “What a glorious waste of time this all is. Here we have an application that nobody very much is objecting to in Burwash and we have to go through this charade, letting it go to appeal. 

“[We have] a chap who is a small builder, from what we understand, with not a lot of money, who must be losing thousands even as we speak, just so we can go through this pantomime.” 

Similar views were raised by Cllr Susan Prochak (Lib Dem, Robertsbridge), who asked whether the developer could be persuaded to withdraw the appeal and bring the scheme back with a new planning application. 

She said: “We have here a developer who has actually done a lot of community consultation and has adjusted the plans.

“We are nearly there. There are not huge things to do yet, although they are quite important things, the 106 agreement particularly.

“There must be a way through this. Can we ask the applicant to withdraw and we can get on and get the details right.” 

According to planning officers, however, this course of action had already been suggested to the applicant, but no agreement could be reached as the council was unable to guarantee a timeframe for making its decision (particularly given recent disruption from Covid-19).

This saw some criticism from Cllr Tony Ganly (Con, Northern Rother) who argued the application could be prioritised by officers. Officers, however, said the applicant had been seeking an eight-week deadline, which was not considered to be realistic given the department’s workload.

Principal planning officer Samuel Batchelor said: “Thirteen weeks could possibly have been achievable. We find ourselves in these situations relatively often because a lot of our applications go over the time limit.

“Even during normal times that is not unusual because applications are not always exactly as they need to be when they come in, so there is always an element of negotiation that goes with that. 

“What we hope for is that sometimes the applicant or their agent can read between the lines a little bit. I don’t want to discredit them at all, but that is the kind of situation we are in here. 

“We just couldn’t have put down in writing that it will happen [within a set time frame], but we will endeavour to do what we can, such that  if they do submit an application they probably will still get what, hopefully, by most will be seen as quite a reasonable, timely decision.”

Mr Batchelor added that the previous work in examining the scheme could also speed up the application process. 

Following further discussion, the committee directed planning officers not to defend against planning permission being granted at appeal, but to raise its concerns and suggested conditions during the process instead.

Concerns raised by planning officers included some design elements and details of the site’s drainage.

Other outstanding issues include details of how affordable housing will be provided, although it is understood that the developer is willing to provide these. This would be confirmed through a section 106 agreement.

Planning officers had also argued that not enough had been done to show whether an alternative commercial use could be found for the nursing home building. However, this argument was dismissed by committee members. 

The development proposed would include a block of four flats, a terrace of three houses and a pair of semi-detached dwellings. It would also include a detached dwelling and two detached self-build plots. 

A 20-space car park is proposed for the flats and six of the houses to be accessed via an existing entrance on Swing Gate Hill.  The self-build plots would be served by a new access road to be built on the northern part of the site.

For further information on the proposals see application reference RR/2020/1798/P on the Rother District Council website.