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Crowborough Beacon Golf club in bunker over car park plan

By Sussex Courier  |  Posted: June 08, 2012

  • long drive? Campaigners say the car park is big enough

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BOSSES at Crowborough Beacon Golf Club are meeting this week to consider their next move after being refused permission to expand their car park.

To the relief of campaigners, planners last week threw out the club's application. It had been a fiercely contentious issue, with opponents firing off 186 letters of objection and supporters submitting 140 letters.

Brendan Clegg, who led the protest, said after the Wealden District Council verdict: "The golf club is an asset to the town and I'm sure most reasonable people want it to be successful, but not in a way that diminishes this unique ancient common.

"So many cherish its cultural and historic value. This was reflected in the number of objections."

The golf club has argued it needed up to 50 more car parking spaces off Southview Road to meet increasing demand.

But protestors said this was the 11th attempt at establishing the principle of development in one form or another on the land at Beacon Wood.

The car park is on Crowborough Common, which covers an area of about 220 acres – roughly the size of 110 football pitches – and is within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Site of Nature Conservation Importance. It also falls within a new 7km development protection zone around Ashdown Forest.

The golf club's planning agent Andrew Steen told planners the club was becoming increasingly busy with events. For example, next month it is due to host the prestigious English Golf Union's County Team Championship.

"We understand the concerns but this application will have no impact on the number of vehicles," he said.

"The golf club will continue with events with or without the car park extension. I suggest the parking will have no impact on Ashdown Forest."

After the verdict, Mr Steen said: "I'm disappointed they didn't take any notice of a lot of the points we made in our speeches. But I'm not surprised."

He said senior officials at the club would be meeting this week to decide whether to appeal the decision.

The Save Our Common group said the private club already had three car parks – more than adequate for its needs.

Mr Clegg told district councillors: "There appears to be a profound contradiction in the club's case.

"They have repeatedly attempted to promote this land to Wealden council for housing, most recently in 2010, to the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment. This would have resulted in the club giving up its largest car park.

"Yet now they say they need this car park plus even more parking. No doubt next year they will be promoting it again for housing – flipping from one plan to another."

He said a reasonable balance had to be struck between the ambitions and private interests of the club and the preservation of the common.

East Sussex County Council's highways department objected because it said the car park entrance, already difficult to see out of, would be worse.

After the hearing, Nicola Hodgson from the Open Spaces Society also welcomed the ruling, saying: "We objected to this application because it would result in the loss of registered common land over which the public has a right to walk."

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  • mrhawkeye  |  June 11 2012, 3:56PM

    After the spectacular failure of Crowborough Beacon Golf Club's application to develop this private car park on Crowborough Common, will the club's members be refusing to pay Councillor Andrew Steen's fees? Wealden planners have now revealed that the club's planning consultant, Andrew Steen of White and Sons, Oxted, failed to approach the council for pre-application discussions. Initial talks with officers is very clearly advocated in the government's National Planning Policy Framework. It is also standard practice for planning professionals... It is certain that if Councillor Steen had done this, he would have been told by council officials that the club's plans stood no chance of approval. This ill-judged application to develop the most protected site in Crowborough has wasted the hard earned cash of club members and, far more importantly, a considerable amount of taxpayers money. Will the club now appeal, with all the additional costs to the public purse that will arise? Meanwhile, the long-running question of why Andrew Steen, Planning Consultant, remains an unelected Councillor on Crowborough Town Council, still hangs in the air...

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  • SCNomad  |  June 11 2012, 2:24PM

    How about they walk to the club! It's not all that far from most of Crowborough is it?

  • shooter73  |  June 09 2012, 8:52PM

    First the 2009 deregister debacle, now this car park nonsense. To be honest, the aims and objectives of the Golf Club are becoming completely incompatible with those of the the Common itself. The council should grow some, chuck them off the land and use it for SANGS - perfectly permissible since one source of SANGS land is "existing open space of SANGS quality with no existing public access or limited public access, which for the purposes of mitigation could be made fully accessible to the public" By getting rid of these strutting little men shooting their little balls in all directions, the common could finally become a place the whole town could be proud of, made all the better using developers cash to put a picnic table on every green.

  • CaptnSwing  |  June 08 2012, 10:55PM

    How about we rip up the golf course and plant loads of trees to offset the carbon emissions of all those crummy german cars that seem to go hand in hand with being a member of a golf club.

  • shooter73  |  June 08 2012, 4:25PM

    I would ABSOLUTELY put it to the council that the golf club should be exploring more sustainable ways of bringing members to the club. How about a minibus shuttle service from a town centre car park?

  • crowboro_lee  |  June 08 2012, 8:53AM

    an update to our earlier story, looks like they could be ready to launch an appeal