Blind Veterans building decision meeting at St Dunstan

The future of one of Brighton’s most iconic buildings is due to be decided at a planning committee meeting this week.

The ruling will settle the fate of the old St Dunstan’s building in Ovingdean, where a developer is hoping to get approval for a £36million redevelopment of the site.

St Dunstan’s – now known as Bind Veterans UK – said last year the building was becoming increasingly unsuitable and that it was relocating its remaining residents.

And now the James Taylor Group is awaiting a decision on their planning application to convert the premises into 64 apartments, with a cinema, gym and swimming pool for residents’ use only.

The company is seeking planning permission to convert the main building, the Ian Fraser House, into a mix of one, two and three bedroom apartments.

The plans call for an extension housing the swimming pool and gym to be converted into maisonettes, while the gym will become a cinema.

The South Downs National Park Authority Planning Committee is due to decide on the application for the Greenways, Ovingdean site on Thursday (8 December).

Independent Councilor Bridget Fishleigh, who represents Rottingdean Coast Borough on Brighton and Hove City Council, intends to voice her concerns about the motion at the meeting.

She is concerned that the James Taylor Group has said it would not be able to offer “affordable” housing on the site.

The national park administration stipulates that at least half of all new apartments in projects with more than 11 apartments will be classified as affordable.

Councilor Fishleigh said: “If the developer cannot deliver affordable housing locally then this is clearly the wrong scheme and (the developer) should be asked to go back to the drawing board.

“The South Downs National Park Authority should impose a condition that none of these new homes be sold as second homes as this will not alleviate the city’s housing crisis.

“The reason most new builds like this are initially bought by investors is because developers require significant deposits to reserve an apartment.

“That means most people looking to sell properties can’t reserve one. Perhaps the South Downs National Park Authority could negotiate with the developer to ensure local people don’t have to deposit tens of thousands of pounds.”

Councilor Fishleigh also called for a developer’s contribution to fund, for example, playground improvements in Ovingdean, traffic calming measures or an extension to the town hall.

The National Parks Authority has asked for an affordable housing contribution of £500,000 – and a review so that half of any additional sales proceeds above £535 per square foot contribute to fund affordable housing, up to a maximum of £500,000.

The James Taylor Group’s application states: “Due to the high development costs associated with the conversion of this large, listed building, the program is unable to provide affordable housing.

“These proposals for the Ian Fraser House represent a significant investment by the James Taylor Homes Group, preserving the future of the building and ensuring it has long-term viable future use.”

Four letters of objection, including one from the Ovingdean Choral Society, and six “neutral comments” were sent to the National Park Authority. These were not visible on the planning page of the national park administration.

A summary of the report to the planning committee said public comments included requests for public use of the pool and gym.

The Grade II Listed St. Dunstan’s Building was purpose-built to care for and recover from veterans blinded in combat – and opened in 1938.

Former residents included World War I veteran Henry Allingham, born in 1896, who briefly became the oldest man alive until his death in 2009.

The South Downs National Park Authority Planning Committee meets at 10am on Thursday (8 December) at South Downs Center Hall, Midhurst.

The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the National Parks Authority’s website Blind Veterans building decision meeting at St Dunstan

Fry Electronics Team

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