Flats next to Worthing primary school are deferred again

Plans to build six flats on a storage and commercial site south of Heene Church of England Primary School in Worthing have been deferred again amid disagreement over access ownership.

The decision was deferred from Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee in August.

The plans were then deferred again last month as a notice published in the Worthing Herald to find the owner did not expire until September 30.

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Four one-bed flats and two two-bed flats are proposed for Norfolk Street.

They would face a central courtyard as part of a ‘car-free scheme’.

Although cycle parking is provided, the highways authority said that at least six car parking spaces should have been included.

Residents expressed concerns over increased use of the access which runs alongside their properties.

This is the third time plans have been deferred and council officers said the access ‘does not appear to be legally registered to anyone’.

Residents dispute this and ECE Planning did not ‘take the opportunity to contact the residents’ to discuss the issues before the last meeting – a decision it said it ‘regretted’. 

The developer approached residents in advance of Wednesday’s planning meeting but the two parties have not had the opportunity to meet.

Councillor Louise Murphy (Con, Offington) suggested that the plans be sent away again to give ‘one last chance’ of a resolution.

She said: “The impression I’m getting is that there is very much an appetite from the applicant, developers, and local residents to engage positively to find the right solution for this site.

“I’d like to propose we defer this to give applicants and residents time to meet to agree improvements.”

Ms Murphy said that bringing the plans back to the next meeting could put ‘time pressure’ on all parties to have a discussion.

Officers said that schemes such as this one are going to be ‘increasingly common’ as the council and central government are looking to develop existing brownfield sites which are often ‘complex’ with ‘constrained access’.

Several members of the Cobden Road and Norfolk Street Residents Group had their say during Wednesday’s meeting.

One said: “The day after we were informed this application would be considered at this meeting, we were contacted to meet with the applicant – but we haven’t been able to meet due to limited time.”

He expressed concerns over access, losing an area used for bin storage by existing residents and sewage potentially emptying into a cesspit which he claims has ‘never been emptied’ and ‘could be overflowing’.

“Cobden Road is historical, Victoria Park is historical, Amelia Park is beautiful; this proposed development is a total eyesore in the middle of it,” he said.

Another resident said the current access route is a ‘green corridor’ and the development could turn it into a ‘daily nightmare for everyone concerned’.

She said: “We feel this application and proposed flats are not an appropriate solution to this landlocked site. 

“But we really would welcome one that is.”

She said Cobden Road and Norfolk Street is a ‘friendly community’ of neighbours which ‘could be lost by cramming housing in’.

Residents are also concerned that closing off a courtyard, which is currently used by turning vehicles, could increase the use of the disputed access, which was described by councillors as ‘essentially a footpath’.

Hugh James, of ECE Planning, said the scheme was ‘well-considered’ and ‘sustainable’ adding that the issues mentioned by residents were ‘not materially new’. 

He said: “It’s appreciated this has become an emotive issue but there’s no evidence  residents own all or part of the lane.”

He added that the courtyard currently used for turning ‘is on private land’ and that this was a ‘benefit but not a right’. 

Mr James said that lane improvements were intended to facilitate travel for all users – including those with wheelchairs and pushchairs – and not to increase use.

It is anticipated that the scheme will return to the next planning committee meeting in November.

More information can be found at the Worthing planning portal using reference: AWDM/0550/21.