Proponents of what is rapidly becoming Rye’s most controversial planning application are feeling the heat, as local residents are currently being invited to send comments on the plan to build a two-storey “garage-studio” in Rye Conservation Area. The deadline for public comments to Rother District Council (RDC) on the application, RR/2020/493/P, is Friday, August 13.
It is understood the applicant and his agent attended a recent informal meeting of Rye Town Council’s planning and townscape committee, presumably in a bid to lobby councillors to change the council’s existing “objection” recommendation to the planning application. It appears the proponents were not allowed to speak at the meeting and it is reported that the council stuck to its former decision of non-approval.
The proposed development on a tiny triangle of land next to the Globe Inn in Military Road has already provoked intense opposition for a number of reasons. First, the public plot of land was sold for only £9,000 by East Sussex County Council, leading to questions about why a development plot could be sold for such a low price.
Second, many people object to the fundamental suggestion that an individual who lives 400m away from the development should be able to build a garage in the conservation area for the net gain of one parking space. The applicant’s argument for an upper storey “design studio” — a description that was changed from “studio flat” — ostensibly for his wife to use for “occasional, part-time” garden design work, appears to be especially weak.
Others have pointed to the “overtly domestic design” of the building and its large upper viewing windows and speculate that if planning permission is granted, it will only be a short while before the garage-studio becomes a domestic residence.
Rother District Council has also attracted criticism after it was confirmed three months ago that instead of refusing the planning application when it became clear the original design was not up to scratch, the council negotiated with the applicant/agent to agree an acceptable design. Planning authorities by law apparently have to cooperate with developers, but in this case the evidence strongly indicates that a council conservation officer has contributed to much of the latest design.
The fact that RDC allowed the amended design to be developed within a live planning application means that local Rye residents’ objection letters (31 in total) submitted last year are now rendered invalid. It means that residents need to submit objection letters a second time, during all the difficulties of the pandemic.
Residents in Military Road have also pointed out that the latest pink planning notice was placed on the west side of the road, behind a row of parked vehicles where there is no footpath. RDC says it will investigate the situation.
I have personally opposed this planning application in the belief that it is potentially one of the most damaging projects proposed for Rye conservation area in recent years, for the above and other reasons.
Image Credits: Nick Forman .