Controversial St Leonards nursery proposal approved

A controversial proposal to open a children’s nursery in St Leonards has been given the go ahead by town planners.

Friday, 27th December 2019, 9:25 am
Updated Friday, 27th December 2019, 9:39 am

On Thursday (December 19), Hastings Borough Council’s planning committee narrowly voted to approve a change of use application seeking to open an early years nursery at a home in 30 Fern Road.

The applicant had previously run a nursery within the grounds of West St Leonards Primary Academy, but had to vacate their premises last year and purchased the property with the hope of relocating their business there.

While the application was approved, the committee’s views were split on the proposals, which had proven to be highly controversial with residents due to concerns around highway safety and impact on the surrounding area. 

One of the committee members to raise concerns about the scheme was West St Leonards councillor Matthew Beaver. He said: “I’ve been listening very carefully to the arguments tonight, both for and against.

“It was such a shame when West St Leonards decided to stop the lease on the school and force the nursery to have to find somewhere else and I know the challenges they have had trying to find somewhere. 

“It has been said by officers that it is a balanced decision tonight, which shows that even for officers it was a 50/50 decision one way or the other. But on balance I will be moving refusal tonight.

“No one, anywhere in this whole room, believes that … the loss of the previous site is right, it is just that it is not in the right area.”

In moving refusal, Cllr Beaver also called for the applicant to look at purchasing the former Essenden Surgery building, which he said would be a more appropriate site for a nursery.

Similar views had been by local residents and ward councillor Rob Lee, who also raised concerns about road safety, saying the site posed a risk to children.

These concerns had not been raised by East Sussex Highways, however, which did not object to the application.

Other committee members disagreed, however, arguing the need for nursery provision outweighed the concerns around the site.

Cllr Phil Scott (Lab, Wishing Tree) said:  “If you look at the report, the [officers’] support is based on need and I absolutely support that.

“I think if the experts and professionals are telling us there is a need in this particular area because there is a lack … then clearly, for me, it is in the right location.”

Following further discussion the application was approved four votes to three. Before a motion to refuse the application was defeated on the same numbers. Cllr Heather Bishop (Lab, Ore) abstained from both votes.

The nursery would cater for up to 28 pre-school children at any one time and would be open between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday, 48 weeks of the year.

While earlier proposals included plans to place a disabled parking space outside the building, the only external alterations now proposed are the widening of existing footpaths to the front garden and the erection of a 2m acoustic fence along both sides of the rear garden. 

No additional tree or hedge planting were proposed, although amended plans had been submitted to show the location of a bike, buggy or scooter store on site.

The nursery would only be able to have a maximum of 28 children on site at any one time, but would be expected to run six individual sessions per day. 

For further details of the proposals see application reference HS/FA/19/00266 on the Hastings Borough Council planning website.

Huw Oxburgh, Local Democracy Reporting Service