On 10 March, eight days before its renouncement of the Tilekiln football stadium, Hastings Borough Council (HBC) issued a press release stating that it has decided to withdraw its planning application to build homes on Tier 1 of Bulverhythe Recreation Ground. The decision has been taken after discussions with the Environment Agency (EA) and Homes England.

It had been clear for months that, despite commissioning costly surveys from specialist consultants, HBC was most unlikely to be able to satisfy EA concerns about risks of flooding of the site. In its press release the council admitted that it had run out of time. “Extensive site investigation work and flood modelling showed”, it said, “that work could not progress quickly enough to meet the terms of the Homes England funding the project relied on.”

CREDIT: David Dennis

Cllr Andy Batsford, lead councillor for housing and homelessness, said: “We have a massive housing crisis in our town with not enough rented affordable homes to meet the needs of our residents. The funding offered by Homes England gave us the opportunity to explore and develop proposals to deliver a number of these much-needed homes on this site, and it would have been a dereliction of our duty as a council and to those local families, keyworkers and low paid residents desperate for a home not to have taken this opportunity.

“This funding has allowed us to model a range of different flood scenarios. Based on the latest Environment Agency advice, the modelling indicates a potential flood risk that is wider than previously understood and more work/modelling will need to be done going forward. This, combined with other site constraints, has led us to withdraw the application.”

As with the Tilekiln announcement, political opponents – who in the case of this scheme have been vociferous objectors from the start – have been quick to issue ‘I told you so’ indictments. Cllr Andy Patmore, leader of the Conservatives on the council, said: “From the very beginning residents who live nearby were against plans to build on Bulverythe Rec and thought it a non-starter. The Environment Agency categorise the Rec as a Zone 3a flood zone – which means it has a high probability of flooding. 

“This entire debacle has been a scandalous exercise in obstinacy and hubris by the Labour-led council. The site was the centrepiece of the council’s “500 affordable homes” policy. This much-lauded target has now been blown out of the water. 

“The staggering consequence of all that wasted time is that the council blew £1.9 million trying to get over the Environment Agency’s objection which said categorically the development; ‘should not be permitted’”. 

Green party leader Julia Hilton said: ”Anyone with any expertise has been telling the council since the start not to build on a flood plain. I will be asking questions at the next full council meeting on how much money and officer time
has been spent on this proposal and why the Environment Agency was not fully consulted before any plans were drawn up”.

The demise of the proposals leaves, according to HBC, more than 1,100 households currently on the council’s housing register who are hoping to be awarded social housing. In addition, there are nearly 400 households
living in temporary accommodation who are looking for suitable longer-term homes to meet their family’s needs. 

Read more: Understanding Bulverhythe

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