Pressure builds on two-storey garage plan

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Plot in Military Road adjacent to the Globe

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 .

12 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t get it. People bleat on about it being a conservation area, but even your photo above shows this patch to be nothing more than an unkempt, overgrown eyesore. I can’t see how a smallish building can be oh-so-horribly detrimental to the area. As long as the design has an acceptable degree of style I really can’t understand what all the fuss is about. The author suggests the reason for the build are weak, but to me the “let’s object for the sake of it” opposition arguments are even weaker.

    • I fully agree. It’s a small patch of land with no merit at all. My only request would be that the structure has the same clapperboard style as The Globe. Why does it matter if it’s an artists studio or becomes residential studio ? I also fail to understand why people object to it being a parking space. It’s already a parking space for numerous cars. The opposite side of the road is a lovely stretch of buildings. Surely when the The Globe was built it stuck out like a sore thumb as it does not blend in with anything else around it. However, it’s now a much loved and used place. So the smart thing to start off by doing is submitting drawings for the proposed garage/studio to compliment the style of The Globe. It’s really not difficult.

      • Then build a small residential property in which its owner will live full time or rent it out. Not a garage for a distant property.

    • Couldn’t agree more … There were historically buildings on this site and Military Rd is characterised by its huge diversity of architectural styles, periods and building massing. Why it would be detrimental to the Conservation Area is not at all clear to me.

  2. I am in total agreement with Shaun, why all the fuss? How on earth can it be detrimental to the area when all it is at the moment is an overgrown eyesore, much better to give it some use and smarten the area up a bit.

  3. The comments above are people who are so misinformed.
    The So called ‘eyesore’ piece of land was a natural wooded area in which many birds nested and also provided a natural shield from the pollution from the traffic.
    The person who bought the land just, without permission, chopped trees and cleared shrubbery. The land has become an eyesore since his ownership.
    Andrew McLaren must be a very old man if he knows what was happening in Military Road in 1839 when The Globe was built. Also a matter of fact most of the period properties were built about the same time or after that date…

  4. I understand that this “article” appears in “opinions”, but it isn’t very clear that it does so. It is biased, factually incorrect, and inflammatory. Rother have done absolutely nothing wrong, and neither have the applicants. Better journalism please, or at least some editorial control over self interested commentators.

    REPLY FROM THE EDITOR:
    It makes it very clear that it is an OPINION piece, and the author’s name should be on display beside it!
    As an opinion piece, it is entitled to appear. Just as YOU are entitled to reply to it. I ask you now, to submit 500 words to be published next week, stating your argument for, or against, the development.
    Chris Lawson
    Editor

  5. In my view (for what its worth) the Rye Town Council, RDC and the Highways Authority (working together) should first resolve the very congested parking and traffic situation within Military Road, before considering the application to build. I went to school and live in Rye, accessing Military Road never used to be a problem, but now its probably the most congested and difficult roads to access! Military Road has fast become the car park of Rye!

  6. Jeanette hits the spot perfectly. I reiterate, this site was until 3 years ago a very pleasant little woodland, which provided a natural green buffer between Military Road & the traffic thundering up & down Rye Hill. In the first application it was stated that the land was a rubbish dumping ground: it wasn’t! I have asked RDC’s tree officer to confirm whether the correct permissions were sought before the mass felling, but I’ve never had an answer. As David points out the pink application notice has been placed at low level behind the ever present parked cars. What’s the point of a public notice that no one can see? If this ‘house’ style two storey development goes ahead on land sold for £9,000, some one will make a massive profit at the expense of council tax payers.

  7. I can only reiterate what the Editor says: this is an opinion piece and should be viewed as such. The article is clearly labelled as “Opinions” and my name is given, and I also openly declare my interest in the last paragraph. The “informal” Rye Town Council meeting to which I refer in the second paragraph was, I understand, held on Zoom, which so many meetings are these days. I am confident about the views I give, which are based on fact. Although Rother District Council has obliged local residents to send in their comments on this planning application a second time — and can, I think, be justifiably taken to task for that, and for allowing the proponents to upload unlabelled images to the Council website — the KEY question regarding this development project is why ESCC sold public land at a bargain price to a private individual who hypothetically stands to make a profit of hundreds of thousands of pounds from the deal when the property is eventually sold. There has been no answer forthcoming and I’d be grateful if ESCC could supply one, especially if there’s a simple explanation. There are also a number of complex material planning considerations relating to the design, location, site constraints, declared use, overlooking and other issues relating to this development in the Conservation Area. Dozens of Rye people have submitted objections to this planning application and a second petition against it will shortly be submitted. I urge people to peruse the full history of this project on the RDC website under application RR/2020/493/P, and its predecessor application (which was refused) under RR/2019/1306/P.

  8. What someone paid for a site should be irrelevant in planning terms.
    It’s a brownfield site. The evidence is that there was a massive, four storey building on the site.
    A “hard-nosed developer” would have lodged a planning application for a four-storey block of flats, knowing that there would be objections. Eventually, everyone would accept a two-storey development, probably much more extensive than the current proposal.
    The current proposal is very modest and we should trust the planners to take a sensible decision. The proposals were prepared locally by someone who cares for Rye. The Rye conservation society made no objection.
    The risk of defeating this application is that the site could eventually end up in the hands of a “hard-nosed developer” with a London architect. In the years between, the site would remain derelict, an eyesore, a lost opportunity.

  9. My application currently before Rother District Council for Planning Permission to develop a Garage with Design Studio loft above on the currently vacant land adjacent to the Globe Inn in Military Road has generated a great deal of comment.
    Unfortunately some comment has been based on half-truths, untruths and implications of shady dealing and whilst the planning decision is solely in the hands of the council, I feel that I must put some incontestable facts forward to balance the information being widely promoted (via letter-box drops etc. etc.) by an apparent obsessive.
    • The land was sold freehold by East Sussex County Council in 2017 at a public auction of properties conducted by Clive Emson for ‘a variety of uses subject to all necessary consents’. No ‘For amenity use only’ limitation was attached. Any suggestion that the purchase was somehow an improper deal is incorrect and offensive to me and probably to the council also.

    • The hammer price at the public auction was £9,000. Auctioneers fees, VAT and a further ‘costs’ charge due to East Sussex CC brought the acquisition cost to more than £15,000.

    • The site has never been a ‘wildlife idyll’ – more, unfortunately, a dumping place for bottles, dog waste bags and local hedge trimmings. The original four-storey building on the site was demolished in preparation (subsequently cancelled) for the widening of Rye Hill. The land was unattended for a fifty year period and self-seeded Ash trees and other scrub brush cover took over and weakened masonry etc. requiring (Council approved) removal. Additionally, the site presented as a ‘childrens’ misadventure playground’ and required (for the first time) me to fence it in to avoid future disaster.

    • Great care was been taken by my Surveyor to consult with Rother’s Conservation Officer to arrive at a design which is of appropriate and sympathetic architectural form.

    • It has never been my intention to develop anything other than a Garage / Design Loft building and I am therefore perfectly willing – should PP be granted – for further development of the site to be ruled out. In any case, as any future change of use would surely require council permission which given recent history would be most unlikely to be granted.

    • Far from taking parking places away from the road, the design allows for off-road placement of two to three cars for the one-car width required by the site entrance. A parking gain in fact.

    • A kind Military Road resident has provided a better quality picture of the original building which stood on the site before compulsory purchase and demolition circa 1970. I attach it for interest and perspective.

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