Judge rules on future of Gullivers Bowls Club

An artist's impression of the plan for Gullivers Greenl SUS-140625-131124001
An artist's impression of the plan for Gullivers Greenl SUS-140625-131124001

A woman who has fought for years to block plans to redevelop a bowls club into sheltered flats has failed in her latest legal challenge to the granting of planning permission.

Yesterday (Tuesday, June 30), one of the country’s top judges upheld Rother District Council’s decision last November to finally grant planning permission for the redevelopment of Gullivers Bowls Club, Knole Road, Bexhill.

The plan involves demolition of the existing bowls club buildings, replacing them with a new clubhouse or pavilion and an indoor rink, replacement of two outdoor greens with one new green and the development of 39 sheltered apartments.

In her ruling at London’s High Court Mrs Justice Patterson said the site has a ‘considerable planning history’, with permission for such a development first refused in 2003.

A later government-granted planning permission was quashed by consent at the High Court in 2009.

And earlier proceedings brought by campaigner Anne-Marie Loader went to the High Court in 2011 and the Court of Appeal a year later.

In the latest move Ms Loader complained that, in granting permission, the council failed to consult English Heritage and the Victorian Society on the impact the development would have on the surrounding area, which includes the substantial Grade-II listed terrace of houses, De La Warr Parade.

She also complained the council failed to properly understand the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and failed to take into account the designation of the bowling club as an ‘asset of community value’.

But the judge found in her favour only in respect of English Heritage and exercised her discretion not to quash the permission on the basis it would have made no difference to the decision.

She said there had been a ‘confused and confusing period between the parties and English Heritage’.

Refusing to quash the decision, she said: “The key point is that, even taking the position at the most favourable to the claimant, which is that English Heritage would have responded and responded in an adverse way on the submitted design, the degree of scrutiny and care with which the defendant considered the revised application would not have been any different.

“The defendant was aware throughout of the importance of the revised design on the setting of the Grade-II listed building opposite the development site.

“It regarded that factor as a highly material consideration and took it very much into account as part of its decision making process.

“In those circumstances I have no doubt that the decision would have been the same had English Heritage responded on the application as a result of notification and I exercise my discretion not to quash the decision.”

She added she could see no basis upon which it could be contended that the council’s planning committee were significantly misled in relation to the asset of community value designation.

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