Published: 17:00, 27 April 2016
Controversial plans for a seafront plot of land have been given the green light by councillors.
Campaigners left the council chamber in their droves dejected by the approval of an application for Whitstable’s Oval Chalet site last night.
The land, sold by Canterbury City Council to Sea Street Developments for £160,000 in December 2014, is set for seven holiday homes, eight houses, a community building and an urban square.
The plans, submitted by architects Lee Evans Planning on behalf of Sea Street Developments, were resubmitted in February after strong opposition voiced by the Whitstable Society and the Oval Chalet Preservation Community Group (OCPC).
They included the same mix of uses as a July 2015 application but with more designated public open space to be used as an urban square fronting the sea wall opposite Reeves Beach.
The plans have been granted subject to conditions.
These include that there should be unrestricted access to public open space, the holiday lets should not be used as permanent homes, and that developers will provide £61,000 towards transportation and road surfacing works.
Councillors voted six to three in favour of approval.
Cllr Nick Eden-Green (Lib Dem) said: “We are a planning committee and it gives me no pleasure to make this decision with such opposition, but in no way, shape or form have there been any valid arguments to make a refusal.
“The holiday lets will support tourism and there were no issues raised at the local plan steering group.
“As long as there is a condition protecting the privacy of adjoining properties I support the decision.”
Councillors Ashley Clark (Con), Oliver Fawcett (Con) and George Metcalfe (Con) voted against the officer’s recommendation.
Cllr Clark said: “The site has been a mess for years so I have no problem with development.
“The so-called urban square as indicated as public open space would not function well in virtual permanent shade with a bleak northern outlook. It is completely against the spirit of the National Planning Policy Framework.
“The size, mass, height, and oppressing effects on a conservation area will give us Manhattan-on-Sea rather than the quintessential seaside town visitors come to see.”
Before the vote there were five speakers against and three in support of the application.
These included Kim Foster from the OCPC.
He said: “This will have an adverse impact on the conservation area.
“There will be overshadowing, loss of sunlight and daylight and a four or five storey development does not fit in based on existing surrounding buildings.
“To proceed any further with this vindictive application would be unfair, it should be deferred to public consultation.”
Planning officer David Campbell responded that a new consultation period is not a statutory requirement for amended applications.
Graham Cox from the Whitstable Society said: “In reality this development will include buildings over four storeys and become a massive eyesore for the town not only the conservation area.”
Gorrell ward councillor Bernadette Fisher said: “This development will be overbearing, contribute to the loss of sunlight in a conservation area and will look like a medieval fortress or Manhattan by the sea.”
Consultant Simon Herrington said: “We have assessed the scheme and carried out daylight, sunlight and flood assessments.
“The scheme will contribute to a reduction in light but a reduction below the threshold set out in our guidelines, which are not mandatory for the council to follow.
“The Oval Chalet Preservation Community Group also presented their own three-dimensional images which were not representative of the plans and contained inaccuracies.”
Jeanne Taylor of Lee Evans Planning said: “While there have been objections there is also support.
“We feel there has been misinformation on social media and the land is not identified as public open space in the local plan.
“We propose that there will be a large area of public open space with the development.”
A regular visitor to Whitstable, Ellie Weightman voiced her support for the plans.
She said: “The use of this abandoned space can only be a good thing for the town.
“It is a good opportunity to keep an interesting space and the long-term positives outweigh the negatives.”
Oval Chalet Preservation Community Group co-chairman Suzanne Blaustone has lived in Sea Street for 20 years and the development will overlook her house.
She said: “We orchestrated careful speeches with regard to planning issues and their decision is heartbreaking.
“We all had three minutes to talk and no chance to reply to councillors. We are absolutely distraught it feels like Whitstable has lost its soul.
“The immense loss of privacy demonstrated by the tower block forced upon me and my neighbours has been omitted from the officer’s report despite him coming to my house and seeing the development would be only two metres away.
“Imagine how it would feel to have moved into a public open space only now to close the shades for fear of peering eyes.
“People will be looking into my dining room, kitchen, my bathroom and my bedroom.
“This development will drive us out of our loved homes eclipsed by fear, devastating our neighbourhood for many generations to come.”
To view the application click here
Read more in tomorrow's Whitstable Gazette.