The application, from Simco Homes Ltd, was for a staggered block, ranging from one storey to five storeys sitting on a tiny car park at the corner of Station Way and the High Street.
Described by planning officers as ‘cramped’, ‘claustrophobic’ and of ‘poor design’, as well as ‘contrived’, ‘awkwardly located’ and ‘totally unacceptable’, the application was refused at a meeting of the planning committee on Tuesday (January 12).
A statement on behalf of Simco Homes accused the officers of ‘a lack of engagement’, saying they had been given ‘no reasonable opportunity’ to respond to concerns raised.
They received was some support from Ian Irvine (Lab, Broadfield).
Mr Irvine felt some of the reasons for refusal were ‘excessive’ and suggested the council was trying to protect the Station Gateway protect – long-standing plans to transform the area outside Crawley station – which was given outline permission in 2016 but has yet to start.
But officers defended their work and none of the other councillors agreed with Mr Irvine.
Peter Smith, cabinet member for planning, said the council had a track record of ‘being very helpful to applicants’, adding: “It does seem with this application there is just, quite frankly, so much wrong with it that it’s difficult to conceive how it could be made suitable for approval without significant rework.”
Problems raised included the sheer size of the building, which would almost entirely cover the site, the lack of affordable housing and the lack of parking – though the council has approved developments with no parking in the past.
But the most worrying points were raised by Network Rail, who had ‘serious concerns’ that the view of the level crossing and its signals would be blocked by the flats.
This, coupled with the road layout approaching the crossing, prompted warnings of ‘an increased risk of an accident occurring on or near the crossing’.
To view the plans, log on to planningregister.crawley.gov.uk and search for CR/2020/0589/OUT.