Worthing flats next to primary school approved at fourth council meeting

A developer has gained approval for a Worthing flats scheme after the plans came to committee four times.

Proposed new flats
Proposed new flats

Six flats can now be built on a storage and commercial site south of Heene Church of England Primary School.

Four one-bed flats and two two-bed flats are proposed for the Norfolk Street site and it will be a ‘car-free’ scheme, with cycle parking spaces instead.

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But the developer had to come to Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee four times to gain approval.

Committee chair Noel Atkins (Con, Salvington) feared that the scheme would ‘go to the planning inspector’ if deferred again or refused.

“This has been ongoing for a while now,” he said.

This stemmed from a dispute between residents and the developer over an access track and the plans were deferred so the two parties could meet to discuss concerns.

Residents do not want the access route to be improved due to potential maintenance costs and increased use.

They are also concerned that closing off a private courtyard, which is currently used by turning vehicles, could increase the use of the disputed access.

Residents finally met with the developer at the end of October but an agreement could not be reached over a smaller scheme they proposed.

ECE planning told the residents of the intention to improve the access route and introduce a turning circle, but this did not meet their approval.

Concerns from the residents’ association were voiced and, in a statement, it said: “It would be morally wrong to put financial pressure on residents who could not afford to pay.”

There was frustration on both sides with one resident saying they ‘were at cross-purposes’ with the developer.

“It is disappointing that the residents’ idea for a smaller residential site could not have been considered,” she said.

Another resident said that access would be needed for residential flats.

He said: “They want to build residential, not commercial units, which would require access.

“If flats were erected on this site, however well designed, quality of life for the buyers would be poor quality, claustrophobic, dark, isolated, and they would be unable to have any of the usual deliveries.”

However, an ECE Planning representative said the developer felt as if it was ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’.

“They’ve done everything that has been asked of them,” he said.

“Residential development is the only really feasible use here and one that can deliver improvements to the lane.

“Turning space is now proposed that will easily address the residents’ concerns about cars and vans meeting along the lane.

“The continued commercial use cannot continue; the buildings will fall down soon.”

A turning circle was not submitted as part of the plans but the developer said it was willing to provide one if requested.

Helen Silman (Lab, Heene) was ‘uncomfortable’ with reducing outside amenity space to make room for a turning circle.

The planning committee resolved that access improvements should be limited to putting right any damage caused during construction.

Permitted development rights

Officers pointed out that the scheme could go ahead, regardless of approval, under permitted development rights.

This was a major factor in the committee’s decision to approve.

Tarring councillor Martin McCabe, who this week defected from the Lib Dem to the Labour group,  said: “Permitted development is the enemy of good developments and establishing good communities, so I wouldn’t be able to look anyone in Worthing in the eye if I was to allow permitted development to go ahead here.”

This was echoed by Jim Deen (Lab, Central) who did not approve of the scheme but equally did not wish to see it take place under permitted development.

“This has been a very difficult application to deal with and that’s why we’ve seen it four times,” he said.