Crowborough Beacon Golf club in bunker over car park plan
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."
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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."