Councillors have turned down plans to convert an Eastbourne care home, despite warnings around the likelihood of the decision being overturned at appeal.
On Monday (June 11), Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee again considered proposals to create an 11-bedroom House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) at 13 Gorringe Road — a building which had formed part of a care home known as The Shires.
The retrospective application had previously been considered by the committee in April, which saw councillors defer the scheme in hopes of getting the applicant to add more communal space to the building. According to meeting papers, the applicant looked into this request but had judged it not to be ‘viable’.
Several councillors voiced displeasure at the lack of changes to the scheme, including committee chairman Hugh Parker. Cllr Parker said: “I think that’s the problem we are all struggling with. This is exactly the same planning application as went previously. Nothing has changed, there is no intention to change, we are where we are.”
This view was somewhat challenged by planning officers, who pointed to the new conditions offered by the applicant since the April meeting. These new conditions included an explicit limit on the number of people who could live in the building and a ‘minimum stay’ condition requiring future residents to commit to living in the HMO for at least three months.
The committee remained concerned about the scheme, however. Their concerns included the number of residents and whether the creation of a HMO would harm the existing character of the area.
Councillors had also voiced concerns about the retrospective nature of the proposals (with the planning application coming after the conversion work had already taken place).
These latter concerns prompted a warning from Helen Monaghan, a council-employed planning lawyer. She said: “This application is regularising something that has already happened. Now that might not sit well with members, however the applicant cannot be penalised for this.
“It might not be nice, but there is legislation to allow them to do it like this. So, to be aware, that is not something that should be taken into consideration when making your decision.”
Ultimately, the committee was unwilling to approve the proposals. After taking advice from officers the scheme was refused on the grounds that the development would be an ‘over intensive use’ of the building which would be likely to result in a loss of residential amenity.
Planning officers had warned that this was a “weak” reason for refusal, partly because the council had previously approved less intensive HMOs within the town. This meant, officers said, that the decision would be unlikely to hold up if taken to appeal.
The council had previously approved plans to convert the other half of the former care home (at 12 Gorringe Road) into three three-bedroom apartments
Notably, the schemes had been submitted concurrently with a third proposal for the same site. That scheme is seeking permission to convert both parts of the former care home into HMOs.
For further information on the proposals see application references 230049 (apartments) and 220961 (HMO) on the Eastbourne Borough Council website. The third proposal can be found under application reference 220421.