The next steps for a £10m commercial development in Bexhill have been given the go ahead by Rother council leaders.
On Monday (November 4), Rother District Council’s cabinet agreed to set aside the funding for the development of commercial properties and a doctors’ surgery, as part of the Rosewood Park site off Barnhorn Road.
As a result of the decision, council officers will appoint a team to develop a full planning application with the aim of bringing it before planners in March 2020.
While approved by cabinet, some concerns were raised by Bexhill mayor and ward councillor Kathy Harmer. She said: “Both projects sound very exciting – the doctors’ surgery and the retail.
“The thing to remember is we can’t be seen to take business away from [Little Common] village.
“We are hoping the parking enforcement when it comes in might help or change things, but we really have to be very, very mindful of not taking anything away from our village because it has suffered quite a lot.”
Cllr Harmer also raised concerns about staffing for the proposed doctors’ surgery and its access via Barnhorn Road.
In response council leader Doug Oliver said these concerns would be drawn out as part of the planning process.
Meanwhile, the project was welcomed by Cllr Jonathan Vine-Hall, the council’s portfolio holder for strategic planning, who said: “As a regeneration programme I support this. It has some way to go to be a return on investment, but I understand you are looking to get a grant to reduce the £10m [cost].”
Cllr Vine-Hall also said ‘lessons should be learned’ from the way the council had purchased the land.
The site, which already has outline planning permission for the development of office space, light industrial units and a doctors’ surgery with space for ten GPs, was bought by the council for £600k earlier this year.
As part of the purchase the council agreed to a restrictive covenant on the land limiting what it can be used for and an overage clause, meaning the council would have to pay the previous owners an additional sum should the site be used in any way differently from the outline planning permission.
According to a report from officers, a scheme with the same mix of office and light industrial space as the outline planning permission would be expected to bring up to £160,000 into the council’s coffers each year, once its costs are factored in.
However, the report also says it may be possible for the council to achieve a better return by altering the proposed mix of site, reducing office space and increasing light industrial space.
According to the report, this is because light industrial space would cost less to build than office space and also has a more ‘proven demand’ in the local area. This could see the cost of development fall from £10m, the report says.
The outline plans currently have a mix of 2,750 sqm of office space and 750 sqm of light industrial space.
Changing this approach, however, would require further planning permission and the costs involved.
At the meeting, cabinet members agreed to set aside £10m from its £35m property investment strategy to bring forward development of the site.
They also gave officers the authority to appoint contractors to manage the development and to negotiate a lease on the doctors’ surgery with the NHS.
The report said: “Should cabinet approve the recommendations, officers will begin the procurement of the necessary professional team to bring the scheme forward.
“It is anticipated that full planning consent will be achieved by March 2020 with enabling works to begin on site soon after.
“Construction is likely to take place on a phased basis, with a detailed delivery plan developed by the professional team once appointed.”