Council accused of causing delays to £40m Billingshurst business park

A company behind the development of a new business park at Billingshurst is accusing Horsham District Council of causing delays to the £40million project.

Jeff Hobby managing director and owner of the Dunmoore Group says that the council has dragged its feet over planning permission for units at the partially-built Billingshurst Business Park.

And, he said it was costing ratepayers money. He said the council’s planning department cost around £1.4 million a year to run.

Ultimately, the new business park – off Stane Street – is set to generate £1.7 million a year for the local economy and create 700 jobs.

Howdens are among companies already operating at Billingshurst Business Park. Pic S Robards SR2206286

But, meanwhile, he said, ratepayers were missing out.

"We’re trying to deliver infrastructure and a good quality of life for local people,” said Jeff.

He said the first phase of development – including the building of a new roundabout – had been completed within two years.

"But,” he said, “we have had a recent planning application taking about two years to get through and it should have taken about eight weeks.”

Jeff Hobby, MD and owner of Dunmoore Group and Alex Marshall, development director, at Billingshurst Business Park. Pic S Robards SR2206286

He said it meant that one company who wanted to move onto the business park had to relocate to Ireland and another had gone out of business.

He said they were in talks with a number of other firms waiting to move into the new units.

Meanwhile, a new Lidl store currently being built on the site is expected to open in October.

And fast-food chain McDonald’s says that it is currently considering its next steps after Horsham District Council recently refused permission for a new restaurant and drive-thru on the site.

A spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the decision and are reviewing our options in moving forward.”

A petrol station and Costa are already operating on the business park, along with a Howdens store, Billingshurst Tyre Company, Easy Bathrooms and Nye Building Supplies.

A spokesperson for Horsham District Council said: "The council determines over 2,500 applications each year and is one of the top 12 per cent performing authorities in the country determining 98.8 per cent of major planning applications and 96.7 per cent of minor planning applications within the statutory time period or with extensions agreed with applicants."We have granted some 65 applications so far at the Business Park and received a further 13 applications earlier this month (June 2022) which are being consulted on."We have been managing water neutrality since the Position Statement from Natural England was received in September 2021."This has resulted in the delay of some applications whilst applicants considered how this could be addressed.

"Furthermore the council will seek additional information and amendments from applicants where it is reasonable to do so if this would result in a positive outcome rather than a refusal.

"This has been the case for many of the applications at the Business Park.

"Whilst the council could have determined some of these applications quicker, they would have been refused permission which would not have been in the applicants' or council's interests.

"If a scheme is clearly unacceptable and does not comply with the council's policies, the council will refuse it and is unlikely to accept amendments which would not address its concerns."