Planning minister labelled ‘total lightweight’ in Storrington development debate

Tensions ran high between councillors and planning officers as a 75 home application was reluctantly delegated for refusal amid fears of fines.
JPCT 151013 S13411510x Water Lane development protest outside Park North -photo by Steve CobbJPCT 151013 S13411510x Water Lane development protest outside Park North -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 151013 S13411510x Water Lane development protest outside Park North -photo by Steve Cobb

District councillors fought passionately to oppose an application to build 75 homes on land north of Brook Close and Rother Close in Storrington, with an access point from Water Lane, but planning officers warned that without ‘hard evidence’ the council could incur costs for delaying the process.

Villagers stood outside Horsham’s Park North holding a banner that stated ‘Fighting For Our Fields’ prior to the development committee meeting on Tuesday October 15.

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The main concerns raised by residents and councillors included the increase in traffic pollution, infrastructure and flooding in the village, but frustrations over the government’s five year housing land supply target and the loom of European Union pollution limits left the committee torn.

Philip Circus (Con Chanctonbury) said: “If it wasn’t down to the five year plan we would be able to tread this down.”

Roger Arthur (UKIP Chanctonbury) said: “Unless new residents will agree not to drive along the high street, it is difficult to see how their vehicle emissions can be practically mitigated.”

Diana van der Klugt (Con Chantry) added that the council will have to ‘pick up the tab’ for the fee imposed by the European Union due to the rise in air traffic pollution.

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Committee Chairman David Jenkins (Con Chanctonbury) said the debate was down to the five year supply versus people’s health.

However, Gordon Lindsay (Con Billingshurst) said he was absolutely certain that if the committee refuse the application it will go to appeal.

He said: “Not one council has been able to defend an appeal. We’re going to lose the appeal and incur costs. I worry about this one.”

Mr Arthur added: “If we continue to lie down because of what the inspector might say then we may as well not have these meetings.”

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Storrington resident, Alistair Hopper, said that the development will only increase the risk of flooding in Brook Close.

Another resident, Des Knight, said: “75 more houses onto Water Lane will increase the existing traffic by over 250 vehicles movements morning and evening.”

But, Claire Vickers (Con Southwater) said that without the backing of environmental health (which had no objection) the committee cannot do anything about it.

Brian Donnelly (Con Pulborough and Coldwaltham) said: “Nick Boles [planning minister] appears to be a total lightweight and we’re suffering as a direct result.”

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A planning officer recommended ‘delegation for refusal’ so that legal advice can be sourced before refusing the application.

Yet several councillors wishing to refuse the application fought the planning officer’s suggestion with a chorus of ‘nos’.

Mr Circus said: “We had a proposal that did not include the delegation for refusal.”

Mr Donnelly added: “Where is delegation going to get us? I believe we should put the onus onto the planning inspector.”

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The planning officer added: “We’re not trying to frustrate what you want to do, we’re trying to ensure the best case for refusal. We need legal advice and clarification on those conditions.”

The committee reluctantly agreed to delegate for refusal in order to seek legal advice.

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