Kent Barker

Hastings Borough Council may have partially won a planning appeal but it appears to have lost the main battle over the controversial ‘bunker’ development at Rocklands caravan centre by the Country Park.

The council had demanded that the entire modernistic building should be demolished, on the grounds that it contravened planning permission that had been granted in 2013 for a holiday home on the site.

The Planning Inspector agreed with the council that: “the development as built has had an unacceptable effect on the character and appearance of the landscape”. However he allowed the existing building to remain, subject to minor alterations, on the grounds that the action demanded by the council was “excessive”.

The changes imposed by the inspector include lowering the roof by 400 mm, reducing the size of the balconies and changing the building’s colour.

Campaigners have been quick to criticize the decision.  Andrew Blackman,  Chairman of the Friends of Hastings Country Park described it as “bitterly disappointing”, while Chris Hurrell of Save Ecclesbourne Glen called it “bizarre”, and said it set a dangerous precedent, giving the green light to developers.  “If HBC can’t protect the Country Park, it can’t protect anything”.

In June 2014 hundreds of protesters gathered at the top of Ecclesbourne Glen on the East
Hill next to the Rocklands development which was nicknamed the “bunker”. They were angry that HBC had granted planning permission for any permanent building on the site, and that officers then failed to take enforcement action over wholesale departures from the plans.

“It is quite clear that the council should never have given the original permission for a holiday home in 2013” said Andrew Blackman. “That permission enabled the planning inspector to rule that the wholly unsuitable building did not have to be demolished.”

The planning appeal also considered concerns that the building work could contribute to landslips which previously closed the Saxon Shore Way and other footpaths in Ecclesbourne Glen. Although the inspector said that it was “unlikely” to increase the risk of nearby land movement, Chris Hurrell of Save Ecclesbourne Glen remains unconvinced: “Only changes to drainage patterns could have caused the landslip,” he said. “Now Hastings Borough council must take enforcement action over hard-standing at Rocklands which we believe also contravenes planning policy.”