Total of 361 homes get planning approval at Ashdown and Darwell Close

A meeting of Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee last week resolved to grant planning permission for the plans of developer Danescroft Land to build 151 housing units plus a supermarket and community centre in place of the vacant office block at Ashdown House. 

The plans submitted by another developer, Bellway Homes, for 210 houses to be built on the 23-acre site of the former Grove School (later St Leonards Academy) between Crowhurst Road and Darwell Close, which had already secured outline permission in 2018, have also now been approved.

The Ashdown House site lies between Harrow Lane and Sedlescombe Road North (A21). The main access for the housing estate will be from Harrow Lane; the supermarket will be accessible from Sedlescombe Road. 

The building of the new supermarket, understood to be destined for another branch of Aldi, had been objected to by Tesco and appears to run counter to National Planning Framework guidance which directs planners to give preference to town centres or edge-of-centre sitings. Furthermore, there will be just 17 “affordable” homes – only 11% of the total, compared to the normal policy requirement for a 25% percentage.

However, the Council officers who recommended approval suggested that the residential development would only be rendered economically “viable” if both these planning constraints were relaxed.

Committee debate

Cllr Mike Edwards, representing the local ward Ashdown, argued that Hastings needs housing and that an empty brownfield site currently accommodating a redundant and obsolete building was a clearly suitable development location. 

CREDIT: Dave Young

Members of the committee expressed regrets at some of the details of the design – Cllr Sorrell Marlow-Eastwood, who also represents Ashdown ward, argued for a less dense development with “a slight reduction” in the number of housing units proposed; 

Cllr Paul Foster regretted the lack of provision for solar panels or heat pumps; Cllr Phil Scott said he would have preferred the provision of a medical centre and/or pharmacy, taking into account the recent closure of the GP surgery on Little Ridge Avenue nearby. However, Cllr Matthew Beaver welcomed both the provision of the community centre and the siting of the retail store, which “will provide jobs”.

When a vote was taken, only Cllr Marlow-Eastwood maintained her opposition. Permission was granted by a show of hands, eight to one in favour.

Meanwhile the lay-out, scale and design of the Darwell Close development have now been determined. Local objectors had argued that there was a lack of adequate local facilities and inadequate vehicular access to accommodate the size of the development; there would also be danger to local wildlife. However, no objections were lodged to Bellway’s detailed plans by any statutory consultees, and approval has been given without further debate. Building is due to start in the spring with the potential to release some completed houses for sale this autumn. There will be a full quota of ‘affordable’ homes – 52 out of 210. Of these 36 will be let at capped rents while 16 will be offered for shared ownership. 

More housing approved 

The council’s planning committee also voted last week (7 in favour, 3 against) to grant outline planning permission for 28 more homes to be built at the site of the former Spyway school at Gillsmans Hill, making 36 in all, following an earlier permission for eight. 

Several councillors expressed concern that the plans involve loss of a section of ancient woodland in order to provide adequate access to the intended estate, and Cllr Scott in particular remarked on “over-intensification” of development in that area bringing a “loss of diversity”. However, the council officer Thandi Zulu told the meeting that the loss of woodland was “minimal”, and in any event had already been approved in relation to the previous permission. 

Seven of the 28 homes – the 25% norm – are proposed to be “affordable”, though it remains to be seen whether this provision will be retained when detailed designs and lay-out are submitted. 

1 February 2022

We stated above that approval for the building of 210 homes at Darwell Close was given by Hastings Borough Council “without further debate”.  Local ward councillor Karl Beaney has pointed out to us that this report was incorrect. There was a full debate of the lay-out, scale and design of the development at the council planning committee meeting on 8 December in which criticisms were made of the proposals, in particular with regard to vehicle access to the estate and the need for a footbridge to be erected over the nearby railway line. Cllrs Matthew Beaver and Paul Foster moved that the application for approval be refused, and it eventually passed only by five votes to four. 

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