Casebook: Apartment blocks judged to undermine coastal scenery

A proposal for 74 flats on a site on the East Sussex coast has been rejected after an inspector expressed concern that they would fail to maintain the area's character and appearance.

The site contained vacant buildings formerly used as a petrol station, restaurant and motel. The council argued that the loss of the motel would undermine tourism potential around Newhaven. But the inspector noted that the appellants had tried to maintain the motel before it closed and had invested in improving occupancy rates without achieving a profitable business.

In her view, this lack of viability reflected the old-fashioned and unattractive appearance of the existing buildings. While she agreed that it would be possible to redevelop the site for tourist facilities, she recognised that this would require considerable investment and found no indication that it was realistic. A different use of the site was therefore acceptable in principle, she judged.

But the inspector held that the three large blocks proposed would contrast markedly with low-density development next to the site. The scale of development on the edge of the urban area would create an alien impression that would harm the character of the Sussex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty, she determined.

She concluded that the blocks would fail to respect the wider character of the area, as required by PPG3, due to their impact on small-scale residential estates and the more open expanses of the downs and coastline. She also held that the scheme had potential to disturb local residents as a result of activities in the proposed car park.

DCS No: 100039320; Inspector: Katie Peerless; Hearing.

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