Councillors were urged by planning officers at this week’s planning committee meeting to make a decision on the future of an old ‘monkey farm’.
Formally known as the Shamrock Farm, the two commercial buildings located on a brown field site in Small Dole have been proposed to be demolished and replaced by two detached houses with garages.
Councillors raised fears that approving the development could encourage other applicants to come forward with similar proposals across the SDNP, but the alternative of a derelict industrial site was also stressed as a concern.
Jim Goddard (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote) said: “I think the actual designs are quite reasonable to me and I would support the application.”
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) said it is difficult for her to disagree with fellow committee members but the development is ‘contrary to policy’.
“If we allow this to happen just because the commercial buildings are not viable then we’ll have problems on our hands. The National Planning Policy Framework restricts new residential developments within the countryside unless there’s an essential need.”
Submitted by Christopher Boardman of New Place Investment Company Ltd, the application has been refused on previous occasions, reducing the number of dwellings from four, to three, and finally to two.
The agent representing the applicant, James Luntz, said: “The new homes are significantly smaller than the commercial buildings and it will be barely visible from the surrounding area.”
However, Diana van der Klugt (Con, Chantry) said that the South Downs Society has objected to the plan.
Roger Arthur (UKIP, Chanctonbury) suggested that the current buildings could be renovated and continue as a commercial unit.
“But I don’t know how much investment would be needed,” added Mr Arthur.
However, the industrial buildings were marketed for commercial use over a specified period, but did not generate any interest.
Brian O’Connell (Con, Henfield) said: “This is the site of the infamous monkey farm demonstrations, it was not popular.
“With an investment there’s still no guarantee. The new buildings will probably look more attractive.”
Upon voting councillors were split down the middle as to whether to approve or refuse the application, with Mr Arthur and Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury) voting for an extension.
It was finally agreed that the application be refused and the decision to be placed in the hands of residents as part of the local parish council’s Neighbourhood Plan.