In 2006, Ockenden Manor owners (Historic Sussex Hotels) submitted a planning application for extensive remodelling and extensions to the Hotel, to include 17 extra bedrooms, parking for 84 cars, a Spa with membership of 500, new dining rooms, conferencing facilities, new reception, bar and landscaping.
In accordance with planning regulation, the development proposal was assessed against the criteria listed in the local plan, which determined that :
-The development was outside the built-up boundary
-in a well preserved conservation area (ca)
-in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The hotels plans would have increased the existing footprint by a massive 200%, dwarfed the existing Grade II* listed building and altered the balance of the site forever. Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) sought opinion from appropriate organisations, such as English Heritage, who stated:
historic houses should not undergo seismic shifts in their use or character any more than is necessary and this proposal is a dramatic leap in both facilities and scale....the extension would undoubtedly be visible as a major building on its (Cuckfields) southern approach, the best preserved of the village approaches
On the basis of the all information it had received and the evidence laid before council (including 270 letters of objection) MSDC refused the planning application in August 2006. Historic Sussex Hotels are now appealing this decision.
The impact from this development will be not just on the old house, but as the only access is down Ockenden Lane, it will also impact other listed houses and residential properties whose every alteration or extension is tightly restricted by an article 4 direction. Ockenden Lane is a very narrow and ancient residential lane right in the centre of the CA, barely 9ft wide at its narrowest, with houses opening straight onto the roadway, unprotected by pavements or gardens. There has already been physical damage caused to the classical frontage of the listed workhouse caused by too large a vehicle trying to squeeze past. Properties at the northern end have also been damaged
At present Ockenden Lane just about copes because of the relatively low volume of traffic created by residents, their visitors, and the present hotel, and it still manages to provide vital parking spaces for residents. Larger service vehicles do struggle - getting into the lane, and with its narrow width and we see them resorting to difficult manoeuvres, even parking on double yellow lines by listed buildings in South St, to trolley goods up to the hotel.
But with such a dramatic leap in scale and facilities as those proposed, there would be a significant increase in service traffic and even English Heritage has expressed a degree of scepticism at attempts to argue that a successful spa would not generate significant traffic, with the increased risk to pedestrians using the pavement-less lane, and the negative impact of noise, fumes and vibration
The outcome of this decision will set a precedent for all similar future developments. The built up boundary should only be breached in exceptional circumstances, such as to raise money to maintain or repair a listed building. This planning application is to support commercial enterprise and what are we left with if it fails financially
If the built up boundary is breached it will open the floodgates for future development. The consequences of this decision will be borne by the residents of Cuckfield forever, so now is the time to make a stand
This petition is sponsored by those Cuckfield village residents who want to see the Conservation Area maintained and preserved and who believe that the scale of the proposed development at Ockenden Manor threatens the CA and will establish a precedent for other developments if it is permitted to proceed.
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