A public consultation on The Local Development Framework: Core Spatial Development Strategy (LDF) was commenced in the autumn of 2009. A feedback report detailing the results was published by EBC in June 2010.
The Report sought the inclusion of options 2 & 3 combined in the completed LDF Core Strategy that will undergo public consultation in early 2011. Option 2 includes the possibility of at least 150 additional homes in Sovereign Harbour.
Paras 4.24-4.26 of the Report include the argument: "Discounting the responses received at the ‘Neighbourhood 14 – Sovereign’ consultation event significantly reduces the level of opposition to Option 2, making it the most supported and least opposed option by the rest of the Borough".
This, in our view, is grossly unfair. Option 2 is the only option that impacts directly on Sovereign Harbour, yet the views of Harbour residents opposing this option are simply to be "discounted"!
SHRA is determined to resist any further residential development within the Harbour area. We want to ensure that all the remaining development land is used to provide the necessary social infrastructure and the business and tourist facilities that will make Sovereign Harbour a sustainable community for the future.
We considered that the way the LDF consultation was carried out, and the way that conclusions were drawn from it, were wrong. As a result, and on behalf of our members, in early June 2010 SHRA wrote to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State (SoS) for Communities, asking that his Department investigate:
i. The manner in which EBC conducted the LDF public consultation.
ii. The report that was produced as a result.
iii. The validity of the conclusions that were reached.
In early July 2010, EBC CE Robert Cottrill responded to our letters. Our concerns over the manner of the LDF consultation were dismissed. He acknowledged that Sovereign Harbour lacked a number of important community facilities, but insisted that the only way they could be provided was from profit made by further residential development.He also intimated that the land owners were in the process of drawing up a draft master plan for consultation in the Autumn. Read the Chief Executive's letter to SHRA...
The Eastbourne Plan - Proposed Core Strategy 2006-2027 was published as part of Eastbourne's Local Development Framework (LDF) in December 2010.
In the foreword of the Plan, Leader of the Council Cllr. David Tutt describes it as..
"a tool for the future development of the Borough, reflecting the aspirations of the local community. It provides a 15-year vision [commencing in 2012] of how Eastbourne will evolve as a place; catering for housing, economic and population growth within a confined urban seafront setting."
For the Sovereign Harbour area the Plan proposes the following.
"Sovereign will increase its levels of sustainability through the delivery of community infrastructure and employment development, ensuring that a holistic view is taken of development across the remaining sites.
This will be achieved by:
Developing community facilities in order to meet the needs of local residents;
SHRA opposed the plan's proposal to build 150 more residential properties at Sovereign Harbour.
Over 460 of Sovereign’s residents attended the Council's dedicated neighbourhood drop-in consultation event held in the Haven School on 22nd January 2011 and left their comments on the plans. More than 440 of them also signed a petition signalling their opposition to any more house building at Sovereign Harbour.
It was proposed that the vision for Sovereign Harbour would be reinforced by the production of a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), and a working group, chaired by Stephen Lloyd MP, should be formed to develop it. The group members were the leaders of both EBC political groups, the Sovereign Ward councillors, the EBC Chief Executive, Senior Planning Officers and SHRA committee members.
The first draft of the SPD was presented to residents at the Yacht Club in August 2011. It acknowledged that, to finance the community facilities that residents had identified as being needed, it would be necessary to allow the building of up to 150 additional homes; this plan received overwhelming support.
The working group continued to develop and refine the SPD, and the final draft which was presented to residents at the Yacht Club in June 2012, reinforced the limit of a maximum of 150 additional homes, with options for their location. It also provided details of all the community facilities that would be secured in return, including:
The single most important aspect of the Sovereign Harbour SPD was that, once approved by EBC and the Department for Communities, it would become an integral part of the Eastbourne Local Development Framework, the new Borough Plan to 2027.
The strict limit in the SPD of no more than 150 additional homes in the neighbourhood, over the next fifteen years, was to provide a high degree of protection against any future hostile, or inappropriate, planning applications. If, however, it was not adopted, the current designation for residential development on five of the sites would remain in place, making an appeal against refusal of a planning application almost impossible to win.
The SPD was the result of well over a year’s work and the development team members, not having the luxury of taking parochial interests, had to base their decisions on what they considered to be the best interests of the community.
They also had to accept that the interests of the land owners, Sovereign Harbour Ltd (SHL), and the Government’s revised planning policies with regard to housing, had to be taken into consideration. The team’s objective was to obtain the maximum in community benefits, with a community centre as a priority, with the minimum impact on the community in general. This was done in the knowledge that the only way this could be funded was from the profits obtained from additional housing, and that this would require the cooperation of SHL.
The community benefits proposed in the SPD are considerably greater than could reasonably be expected for 150 new homes, so it is important that those 150 homes should generate the maximum profit for SHL. Click here to view the Sovereign Harbour SPD...
Properties with a sea or marina view carry a price premium so it is, unfortunately, inevitable that Sites One and Eight had to take a significant share of the additional housing. However, what is proposed leaves a considerable amount of land on those sites available for public recreation.
Further, the public spaces created will be landscaped to a very high quality. You should also be aware that the community centre proposed was to be of an appropriate size for the neighbourhood.
The SPD also made it very clear that the community centre must be built and handed over before the start of any residential development.
The working group had been guaranteed that, once ratified by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the SPD would give a "cast iron guarantee" that residents priorities would be paramount. However, once the planning applications began to come forward, it became very clear that the residents in the working group had been seriously misled and Planning Officers were unwilling to challenge SHL.
When negotiating the S.106 agreement, Planning Officers allowed SLH to negotiate away the safeguards built into the SPD, for no apparent gain to the community.
Even more shamefully, under the S.106 agreement, SHL was allowed to substitute an area on Site Seven(c) for the preferred site for the community centre (Site Five). When SHRA representatives spoke at the reserved matter application for Site 7, the Planning Committee chairman, on the advice of the planning case officer, and with the support of the committee members, prevented any discussion about the provision of a community centre. A member of the public who challenged the chairman's decision was ejected from the public gallery.
As a result, all of the residential development not only received consent, but was under construction before the planning application for the community centre was submitted in February 2017. To add insult to injury, so much of the available funding was wasted in changes to location and design that the centre to be delivered is about 25% smaller than originally proposed.
In short, the council use or seemingly ignore the SPD and LDF as they wish.
In early March 2011, SHRA delivered its response to the Eastbourne Plan consultation in the form of a report, along with a supporting petition containing 1,550 signatures.Click here to read SHRA's Response...
However, when the Local Development Framework Core Strategy was published in January 2011, it was very clear that residents’ feedback had been totally ignored.
At a further Haven School consultation event, over 500 angry residents left council members and officers in no doubt that the strategy did not have their support.
Fortunately, this served as a loud wakeup call to EBC which, to give it credit, acknowledged the strength of feeling expressed and engaged the SHRA to work with it to rethink the vision. As a result of these talks, EBC revised its Core Strategy to base the development of the town around two sustainable centres; Sovereign Harbour and the Town Centre.