Nunnery proposal to go back before planners

A former home for nuns could be turned into two family houses if councillors grant planning permission for the project.

Stable House was formerly a home for nuns

Errol and Joanne Barrett, who run Roche Barrett Estates, also want to extend and modernise the building while carrying out the conversion.

They aim to create two homes – a five-bedroom property known as Stable House and a four-bedroom home called Stable Cottage – off Preston Park Avenue.

A report to the Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee said: “39A Preston Park Avenue has recently been sold by the Grace and Compassion Benedictines (GCB).

“Prior to the sale the property was used as ancillary accommodation for the care home at 38-39 Preston Park Avenue.

“The building at 39A did not directly provide care for residents but did accommodate the sisters after the 1988 refurbishment of the buildings when numbers 38 and 39 were combined.

A small number of neighbours objected to the plans, as did Green councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones, who represents Preston Park ward.

Concerns include access, fire safety and children’s safety from cars coming and going but council planning officials support the scheme.

The plans are due to go before the Planning Committee for a second time because of confusion at a meeting last month. The committee voted to allow time for a site before reaching their decision.

One of the new properties would be reached from Preston Park Avenue and the other from Preston Drove.

Residents of The Mews, at 76 Preston Drove, said that the access through their gated courtyard was used for parking.

One of the residents, Carol Cole, spoke for her neighbours in the Mews at the virtual committee meeting last month.

She said that the scheme would make their private courtyard unsafe, adding: “We have a security gate so we’re going to be mightily disturbed.

“All of these people either will have our PIN number to get in so we’ll no longer have security or we’ll have to be continually opening the gates for them.”

Councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones

Fire engines and bin lorries were too big to enter the courtyard, she said, and the Barretts’ property was too far for hoses to reach if there were a fire.

This would put 76 Preston Drove’s timber balconies at risk, she said, adding that if councillors were to approve the scheme, they may as well “tear up the Preston Park conservation plan”.

But the committee was told that the access through another property was a civil matter and not a planning consideration.

Councillor Hugh-Jones said that she was concerned about what was described as a drive in the application.

She said: “Space by the mews is not a drive but a quiet courtyard. Residents’ access to garden space is across the courtyard. Access is narrow and cars would be unable to enter or leave the new dwelling in a forward gear.”

Ian Coomber

The Barretts’ agent Ian Coomber, of Absolute Town Planning, said that the access to Preston Drove had been used for more than 20 years by nuns who previously lived in the building.

He said: “The building is there. The objection around the alleged privately owned courtyard is under dispute.

“It is a civil matter to be resolved. There are no justifiable planning reasons to depart from the officer’s recommendation to approve.”

Mr Coomber said that if the legal dispute over the right of access did not go in the Barretts’ favour, they would have to come back with a new set of plans.

Green councillor Leo Littman, who chairs the Planning Committee, said that he understood why councillors who were not familiar with the area would find the written information difficult to understand.

Councillor Bridget Fishleigh

Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh asked to defer a decision and was supported by Councillors Daniel Yates, Carol Theobald and Tony Janio.

Councillor Yates said: “Personally, I thought it was straightforward but the way it’s described, it sounds like a maze.

“I would like confidence that everyone understands what’s happening.”

The committee is due to decide whether to grant planning permission at a virtual meeting starting at 2pm on Wednesday (10 February). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

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