By Emma Harwood

Hastings Borough Council has called for an end to legislation which could see a developer convert a seven-storey office block in St Leonards into ‘slum’ housing – without planning permission.

Telereal Prime Property Group – a subsidiary of Telereal Trillium which owns the building -has already been granted prior change of use consent to turn Ashdown House on Sedlescombe Road North into 246 studio, one and two bedroom flats.

The permission was given without the council’s consent under legislation introduced by former Tory Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles in 2015.

The legislation provides that certain building works and changes of use can be carried out without having to apply for planning permission from the council.

However, HBC says it is horrified that the government policy is “being used to drive a coach and horses through the housing policy.”

Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) have produced some of the most poorly developed housing in the country which falls well below the normal planning and building standards required. Plans submitted by Telereal show that no changes will be made to the appearance of the office block, which currently houses the Department for Work and Pensions, set to relocate shortly to Lacuna House in Havelock Road.

Council leader Peter Chowney said the legislation has had catastrophic consequences in other towns and cities, creating slum housing. 

 “Despite repeated demands from local government to scrap this policy, the Government has refused to get rid of it and continues to allow poor quality conversions to take place, with councils unable to prevent it or have any say in it.”

“We are very concerned that this could happen to Ashdown House.”  

The council is now looking into ways of challenging the legislation and says it is urging current owners, and any future owners to consult with them about how a proper redevelopment of the site could take place to create good quality, energy efficient and affordable homes, with the proper local scrutiny that a full application would bring.

“The last thing we need in Hastings is a shoddy conversion to create poor quality housing of the kind we’ve seen elsewhere where permitted development rights have been used to create housing conversions without going through the planning process.” said Mr Chowney.

Trillium, now Telereal Trillium, was established in 1997 to acquire and manage the 16,663 square metre Department for Work and Pensions estate. In 2000 it was bought by Land Securities, becoming Land Securities Trillium before being acquired by Telereal in 2009.

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