Millbrook Garden Company Ltd have applied for planning permission to demolish their garden centre in Crowborough and build 33 homes on the land.
Existing buildings would be demolished and a block of four flats, terraced houses, semi-detached and detached houses would be built. As per policy 35% would be affordable housing.
A planning application has been submitted to Wealden District Council and went live on their website on Friday (27th November).
Tammy Woodhouse, Managing Director, said:
Millbrook is a family-run business that has been on this site for over 40 years. Sadly, the COVID pandemic and subsequent closure of the garden centre for several months, along with the ongoing uncertainty of trading, has meant we have had to investigate alternative solutions. At this time, we have not sold the site, nor have immediate plans to close, but we have to look at all the options as a business.
All the staff and concessions were informed of the application several weeks ago and we are keeping them informed as things progress. We are very aware that this is an uncertain time for all the team and will continue to support them through this.
We will continue to trade at the garden centre and hope you will continue to shop with us, if nothing else to support our team who have worked so hard in these challenging times and to whom we are extremely grateful.
There would be a new single access road onto Tubwell Lane. Sixty six parking spaces would be provided and the transport statement argues residential use would result in fewer vehicle journeys than the current business use. There would be a new footpath to the lower level corner of Mottins Hill to allow residents to walk to the railway station, school and local shops.
An open green space containing an oak tree is proposed, existing hedgerows would be retained and there would be additional landscaping along the boundaries. Bat surveys identified a single Common Pipistrelle emerging from an area of weatherboarding on one building, and in total four bat species were recorded during the surveys. The ecological plan submitted with the application recommends bat boxes be installed to increase roosting opportunities on the site.
Wealden District Council cannot currently demonstrate a 5-year housing supply. The application site was within the development boundary included in the emerging Local Plan 2018. However since pre-application advice was sought by the applicant last year, Wealden District Council was forced to withdraw their Local Plan. The application argues that because saved policies of the old 1998 plan are of a considerable age, the Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development contained in the National Planning Policy Framework should be applied.
Most of the garden centre site is hard surfaced. The proposed scheme is designed to improve on the existing flow of surface water, which currently discharges to a highways drainage ditch.
The family business celebrated its 40th birthday last year and Sue Allen, who was the founder of the business with her husband Dick, wrote a blog for their website describing the history of the business. Tammy Woodhouse, the current Managing Director, is Sue and Dick’s daughter. They now have two larger sites in Gravesend and Staplehurst in Kent.
The pre-application advice said:
It is understood that the garden centre employs 7 people full time and 15 part time. The café has 2 full time posts and 4 part time. In addition there are administrative staff on site who would relocate to the other sites at Staplehurst and Gravesend in the event that the garden centre closed.
Millbrook said they had lost over a million pounds in sales by not being able to open in the Spring because of the Covid-19 lockdown (more). The company were frustrated and argued it wasn’t a level playing field with DIY chains been allow to re-open and supermarkets selling plants and compost.
The planning application can be viewed on Wealden District Council’s website (Ref: WD/2020/2164/MAO). The deadline for comments is the 18th December 2020.
Click to show an interactive map of major planning applications in the Crowborough area.