Public Inquiry To Test Council Figures

Few observers will have been surprised when earlier this year a planning application made by a Hove property company BBCN to build nine houses on an area of scrub land to the south of Barley Lane was rejected by Hastings Borough Council (HBC). The refusal letter described the proposal as ‘an incongruous urban form of development into existing green landscape out of keeping with and harmful to both the rural character of the area and the setting of the Old Town Conservation Area’. More specifically it would be contrary to the Council’s Development Management Policy HN10, which seeks to protect the open space between the town’s urban area and the Country Park Nature Reserve. Besides, Barley Lane is too narrow to accommodate further traffic, and the site itself is prone to landslip and waterlogging. Case closed?

No, BBCN has issued an appeal which threatens a fundamental challenge to HBC’s planning process and will lead to a Public Inquiry to be conducted by a Planning Inspector at the Council chamber in Aquila House for three days beginning on Wednesday 5 December.

Under the National Planning Policy Framework HBC has to provide, and work to, a Local Plan which sets for itself a minimum target for release of buildable land, its ‘housing land supply’. The figure is currently a minimum of 1,248 units of residential housing to be made available between 2018 and 2023. If the Council cannot show that this figure has been met, then it may find itself forced, in layman’s terms, to permit more marginal development. So BBCN contends.  And if the company is right in this, and in its further contention that the land off Barley Lane has no insuperable deficiencies from a development point of view, HBC’s rejection could be overturned.

The Council’s planners unsurprisingly denied this argument back in February. On their tally they calculate that a total of 1,603 dwellings are capable of being completed in the next five years. Over the next few weeks each side will be laying out their evidence for potential cross-examination at the Inquiry hearing in December. We may learn quite a lot by then about the nature of house-building in Hastings.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.