Saturday, 9 February 2013

No Harbour deal in smoke filled room - make your views count on 1st & 2nd March

Residents of Sovereign Harbour will be aware that a cross party working group has been working together for the last two years, chaired by Eastbourne's Lib-Dem MP, Stephen Lloyd to produce a Master Plan that deals with the eleven remaining development sites around the Harbour. This working group has included Council Leader, David Tutt, representatives from Sovereign Harbour Residents Association (SHRA) and local Borough Councillors, Philip Ede, Gordon Jenkins and myself along with our County Councillor, David Elkin who is also Leader of the Conservative Opposition on Eastbourne Borough Council and representatives of Carillion.

In the last few days, residents have started to receive the latest Waterlines newsletter from the SHRA or I would imagine will do so in the next few days if it hasn't yet landed on your door mat. Waterlines does a good job in setting out a lot of the detail on how the process has worked to get us all to this point. It also correctly notes the years it has taken to get to this point which I agree should give us all encouragement that we are closer to achieving the aims of most than at any time since I first started to represent Sovereign Ward back in 2002. I would like at this point to pay tribute to all who have worked in this group because without many of the challenges and at time heated discussions, we may not have achieved as much as now looks like being within our grasp.

However, I do take issue with one small part of the article which I think deserves clarification. It says 'The process has now been underway for two years and, although it has not always been easy, the parties involved have finally reached a position with which they can all feel reasonably comfortable, and which respects the constraints under which they all had to operate'. I did not see this text until being advised that it was at the printers which I feel may give the impression that I too am comfortable.

I am certainly not yet comfortable and I remain concerned on a number of issues:

1) Highway access into the two proposed commercial areas (sites 6 & 7) - I am not comfortable that we have yet convinced the developers that the current access in to the North Harbour off Pevensey Bay Road is likely to be anywhere near suitable enough to handle existing residential and marine related traffic, let alone any further housing or the hundreds of additional vehicle movements that are likely with the development of the commercial areas. Our County Councillor, David Elkin has taken this matter up with the Highways Department at County Hall and they share our concerns here so we will keep the pressure on to ensure this is addressed properly before any planning application is submitted.

2) Site 8, the last remaining view across the North Harbour water from Pacific Drive - residents who purchased homes facing this area tell us that they paid a premium because of the water views and were advised that other than bertholder facilities, this area would be landscaped and the view across the water maintained. The first option which came forward during the master plan process was for a wall of around 24 or 26 appartments with a lower level public viewing area. I rejected this firmly along with some other members of the master plan group and a revised option came back to build 8 town houses, still with a lower level public open space but with only narrow views from Pacific Drive across the water. Now I may be out of touch with my constituents on this but I believe that whilst most reasonable people accept that compromise is necessary, residents will still feel that a suitable compromise for this site has not yet been put forward and would expect those who represent them to hang out for a better conclusion.

3) When this process started, we were told that the strength in dealing with all eleven remaining sites for development meant that it would bring a much needed conclusion and prevent an opportunity for future applications to come forward seeking permission to build additional residential properties, thereby taking the number above the maximum of 150 units set by the group in order to reach the compromise needed to redress the balance and bring much needed community facilities. Somewhere along the line, sites 10 and 11 appear to have slipped off the radar and out of discussion and I now understand that these two sites are now owned by Premier Marinas. These two sites include the area of shingle land adjacent to the lock gates which is currently used for parking but which had been intended to become a turning area for an extension to the Dotto Train tourist service - I regularly receive complaints about the uneven and unfinished state of this area, the other is the outer wall area on the outside of the outer Harbour. I will continue to push for resolution on these two sites.

So am I comfortable with progress? No I am not yet comfortable. Will I throw my rattle out of the pram? No, I will continue to represent the views of my constituents at the table. I have been told by some members of the group that we do not need to go into so much detail as this is not a formal planning application but I would say that we do need to explore detail. After all, many of the problems we have now and the time it has taken to bring forward much needed community facilities are a result of scant detail and conditions at the start and during the outline planning application process and it is my belief that if the remaining issues are not dealt with before a planning application is submitted, this process could set a dangerous precedent that could prevent a line being finally drawn under this long running issue.

Sovereign Harbour Ltd or Carillion will be holding a display and presentation event at the Yacht Club on Friday 1st March between 6pm and 9pm and on Saturday 2nd March between 10am and 3pm. Representatives of the SHRA and your elected representatives will be present during the event but this is likely to be the last opportunity for residents to come and make your views heard before a possible planning application comes forward so please do not miss out on your chance to let Carillion know what you think!

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