BUYING Arun House in Horsham would give Horsham District Council a ‘foothold’ into the ‘asking to be developed’ Hurst Road area, councillors agreed last Wednesday.
A full council meeting the purchase of the freehold from four owners was agreed and a capital budget of £1,736,000 to cover the costs.
A presentation was given by Mr Ray Lee, director of development and environment, who said purchases like Arun House should have no effect on the council’s finances, be strategically important for the future development of the area and make a return.
“Arun House is a long term investment, a foothold into future development of a major development area in the town,” he said.
Financing would come from the Public Works Loan Board – a government scheme with favourable rates to encourage development.
Rent from Central Sussex College, which had leased the site as a training facility until 2014, would cover the interest on the loan, the repayments and give a small return of 0.5 per cent on top of that.
He said the college wanted to stay and had spent £400,000 on refurbishment. He hoped it would stay on beyond the three years.
Mr Chris Carey, strategic land and property manager, said Hurst Road was one of the areas identified by consultants for development and they were now looking at ‘more robust planning briefs’.
Councillors heard there had been talks with Royal Mail about its site as it wanted to leave Horsham and the fire service wanted to move from Hurst Road.
Mrs Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar) said she thought purchasing Arun House was a good option.
“Horsham can’t stand still and we have to look to the future. A town that stands still is a town that dies,” she said..
“We want to attract more jobs, new business. We have got to keep it vibrant.”
Mr Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) commended the cabinet and officers for their strategic thinking, said the loan was a good deal and this was an exciting way forward.
Mrs Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate) called it ‘an area of Horsham asking to be developed’.
“If we don’t get a foothold in there we could lose it,” she said.
Mr Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar) said when he was a part-time lecturer at Crawley College and it was a dynamic college.
“They want to retain Horsham within their sphere of influence. They don’t want to see Horsham in a vacuum for further education,” he said.