Plans have been submitted to demolish Blackboys Service Station and build 12 new homes in its place.
The service station, car showroom and associated workshops and outbuildings would all go if the plan is approved by Wealden District Council, writes Cathy Watson.
Houses and flats
Instead there would be eight three-bedroom houses and four flats in three blocks situated around central road access and parking spaces.
Documents before the council say the site is owned by Rupert and Tony Saggers who have been running the petrol service station there, along with car showroom and vehicle repair shop.
Parts of the business are said to have been in decline for a number of years.
Reasons include the recent redevelopment of the Esso Cross in Hand petrol station, with attached mini supermarket and coffee shop, which has “dramatically” reduced Blackboys Service Station’s fuel sales.
Undercutting fuel prices
“The Cross in Hand garage is only 2.7 miles away and, being part of a national chain, is constantly undercutting Blackboys Service Station’s fuel prices, which as an independent garage they cannot match.
“The current fuel sales are just about covering the costs of an attendant to take payment for the fuel.”
Following closure of a general store in Blackboys High Street the service station tried to run an ancillary shop in the showroom. This had proved relatively successful but was reliant on fuel sales, which were on decline.
In addition Blackboys Service Station used to be a Renault main dealer but that was lost many years ago when all the main dealers were closing rural dealerships in favour of large ones in more commercial areas.
Car sales unsuccessful
Since losing the dealership car sales have been sporadic and unsuccessful, in turn making the forecourt, showroom and sales offices redundant.
The vehicle servicing and MOT section of the business is “very successful and profitable” and it is the intention of the business to seek new smaller premises as local to Blackboys as possible to relocate that part.
Servicing to relocate
“The garage have a large local and loyal client base and they provide an excellent service to them, which they intend to continue to do.”
Apart from part time staff working on fuel sales it is hoped the remaining staff for the servicing and MOTs will relocate to the new premises.
The application seeks to remove an obligation to provide affordable housing because the site has “severe contamination issues and remedial works will be very expensive”.
The documents say: “Removing redundant infrastructure and storage tanks will also make developing the site very expensive.”
It is argued the site is sustainable because Blackboys is close to Uckfield and Heathfield, both of which offer employment opportunities and there are several retail outlets (including the Esso station) within a three-mile distance of the site.
There is also a regular bus services passing through the village serving Heathfield, Uckfield and larger towns further afield.
“Buxted train station, which has adequate parking and is a commuter service to London is three miles from Blackboys Service Station and no more than a short bike ride or a short drive through quiet country lanes.”
Documents also point out the village has a primary school, nursery/pre-school, church, business area, other locally significant employment opportunities, children’s play area, playing pitches and a sports pavilion/changing facilities.
More details about the planning application can be found on the Wealden Council website.