Arun District Council’s development control committee meeting was temporarily suspended after continued complaints councillors and the public gallery could not hear the officer’s presentation.
“I am going to suspend this while I go and see Mr Lynn (Arun’s chief executive) because this is disgraceful,” chairman Ricky Bower said as the officer’s voice was muffled because of a broken microphone – and interrupted by an intermittent buzzing sound.
The meeting resumed several minutes later, without a resolution to the technical difficulties. Speakers were urged to speak louder.
Officer Juan Baeza said: “Can I just put on record from officers that the poor performance of today’s presentation falls well below our normal standards and I sincerely apologise. Members of the public and the audience deserves better.”
The plans, for a home in Sea Drive, Ferring, attracted objections from 77 residents and Ferring Parish Council.
Objectors argued the proposed two-storey apartment block, which would provide eight two-bedroom homes, would be out of character with the area.
They also raised concerns of overlooking and parking, with the development falling short of the 11 spaces required by council guidelines.
Carole Robertson, chairman of Ferring Parish Council, said plans for the ‘monolith’ were ‘horrifically confused’, with numerous revisions being made.
Responding to officer advice residents of the development could park on the seafront, she said: “At best this is a 30 metre walk in an unlit area with no pavement. It’s also a physical impossibility to get any space there at bank holidays, weekends and school holidays.
“Apparently the new policy is live in Ferring, park in Goring.”
Ferring parish, district and county councillor Roger Elkins questioned how Arun could consider approving a scheme of which ‘50 or 60 per cent’ of windows were fixed shut or obscured to meet planning criteria.
But officers, who supported conditional approval of the scheme, rebutted claims the plans would impact on neighbouring homes.
They said an extra parking space had been provided by the applicant, following a site visit. This left it just one space short of the 11 spaces required. The committee was recommended to delegate approval to officers, chairman and vice chairman following public consultation on the change.
Councillors rejected this and called another suspension to ‘formalise reasons for refusal’.
But the committee then approved a proposal to defer the item. It will return to the committee after the consultation.
An Arun spokesman said: “I can confirm that the problem with the sound system was caused by a councillor spilling a glass of water over the microphone unit. This short-circuited the system. It has now been thoroughly tested and is working again.”
Handling of plans were ‘appalling’
Ferring Parish Council chairman Carole Robertson criticised the handling of the Sea Drive plans.
“I often don’t agree with the officers but I have always had absolute faith that the process has been run efficiently and effectively but getting an amendment literally as you sat down to say there is another parking space was appalling.
“It should have been cancelled there and then and the whole thing started again.”
Mrs Robertson said objectors present, including her and councillor Elkins, were sure the committee had voted to reject plans, before changing tack.
“I don’t know where that legally stands,” she said.
The application, which received 77 objections to one letter of support, is believed to be one of the most contentious applications in Ferring’s history. Mrs Robertson could recall only plans to demolish a cottage in Beehive Lane receiving more objections.