The planning process used to approve plans for a huge supermarket in Sovereign Harbour has this week been referred to the Secretary of State in a bid to have the decision appealed in the interests of residents. Because the scheme is contrary to the approved Local Plan, Eastbourne's planning authority is also having to refer the proposal to the Government.
Conservative councillors representing Sovereign ward have written to Michael Gove, the minister responsible for planning and local government, to question Eastbourne Borough Council planning committee’s approval of the proposals which are in contravention of the approved Local Plan. They argue that, if there is to be deviation from the plan then housing would meet a very real local need rather than yet more retail space.
Last month, Lib-Dem members of Eastbourne’s planning committee voted to approve the scheme to create a new discount store on Pacific Drive. Only the two Conservatives on the committee voted against the plans, with Cllr Lamb calling for a deferment.
There was widespread condemnation over the proposals with the council receiving an unprecedented 700 objections and only 50 supporting representations by the end date of the consultation period.
“The planning application has been approved despite it being totally against the approved Local Plan, which specifically ruled out retail use of the site”, said Conservative councillor Penny di Cara who spoke at the planning meeting in support of residents’ mass objections. “It was surprising that the committee was told, by planning officers, that the sheer weight of opposition was not a material consideration in support of refusal”, she added.
Sovereign Harbour Residents Association continue to consider their options to oppose the scheme and await Mr Gove’s response to the councillors’ letter. There is acceptance that the land needs to be developed for economic reasons but concern that the superstore will not achieve the three overarching objectives of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental.
“Rest assured the residents can be confident of our full support as they explore every avenue against this scheme which has serious health and safety issues for those living in the area”, says fellow Conservative councillor Kshama Shore. “The planning committee simply can’t be allowed to ride roughshod over the wishes of the residents like this.”
Objectors living near the site pointed out that the only access for the area would not only become busier with increased traffic from the proposed store, but that emergency vehicles may be impeded including access to the RNLI station.
“Our fear is that the planning committee felt that approval was the ‘easy option’ to avoid the fear of Aldi taking the application to appeal and the virtually-bankrupt council being landed with expensive legal costs”, added Cllr Shore.
CAPTION - Sovereign councillors with Caroline Ansell MP at the Aldi site