Three houses with grass roofs have been granted planing permission after previously being refused.
Planners had concerns about wildlife, particularly badgers, at the site in Long Hill, off Wanderdown Lane, in Ovingdean.
Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee in February turned down the proposal last month but unusually reviewed their decision today (Wednesday 6 March).
The plans were approved by five votes to three for the three houses which will sit on the side of the hill.
Woodland to the south of the site and chalk grassland to the north will remain.
A previous application for nine houses on the site was refused in 2015 and rejected on appeal in 2017.
Labour councillor Julie Cattell, who chairs the council’s Planning Committee, said that a new rule allowed councillors to review their decision.
Liz Hobden, planning policy manager, told councillors that the application was coming back for review after contact with the developer Peter McDonnell.
He had told the council that he planned to appeal and would apply for costs from the council.
After taking legal advice, Ms Hobden said that the council was advised to ask the committee to reconsider its decision.
The county ecologist Kate Cole told councillors that the application for three houses would cause fewer problems than nine and there were more measures to reduce the impact of the development.
Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn raised the issue of the main badger sett on the site and was told that it was normal to relocate a sett.
Moving a sett has to be done by a qualified person licensed by Natural England and the badgers have to be settled in their new home before the original sett is closed.
Reptiles on the site would have to be moved by a suitably qualified ecologist.
Councillor O’Quinn said: “It breaks my heart to see three houses put on an important area.
“I am surprised the planning officer did not take this into consideration.
“Sometimes you have to stand on principle and I will be voting against.”
Conservative councillor Linda Hyde said that the application coming back to the committee was undemocratic and she had never experienced anything like it in her 20 years as a councillor.
She said: “This is likely to set a very dangerous precedent.
“I am really upset for those who are against it. They were also in the public gallery last time.
“They are not permitted to speak and we have the side against them recommending to grant and saying everything they want.
“It seems an unfair playing field.”
Councillors O’Quinn and Hyde along with Conservative councillor Carol Theobald all voted against granting planning permission.
Fellow Rottingdean Coastal ward representative, Conservative councillor Joe Miller, found the decision particularly hard to make but welcomed the information from the county ecologist.
He said: “We heard from her quite convincing evidence that we would not be successful at appeal.
“While as a councillor and ward councillor I have a great deal of sympathy, we cannot keep going back to appeal.”
Green councillor Leo Littman said: “There are so many arguments not to vote in favour.
“We are the custodians of the environment and the council tax payers’ money.
“If we think this has no chance on appeal then I have a feeling it is going to be problematic.
“I don’t think I have ever been in such a situation where I do not know how to proceed.”
Councillors Miller and Littman abstained from the vote at Hove Town Hall.
Councillors Andrew Wealls, Dick Page, Clare Moonan, Penny Gilbey and Councillor Cattell voted in favour.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.