A DERELICT and burnt-out cottage in Horsham is the focus of an impassioned plea this week to the council to bring it back into use.
The old groundsman’s cottage on the edge of Horsham Cricket and Sports Club has been empty for a decade.
The property, well known to recreational users of Barrack Field and the cricket ground, is included in Horsham District Council’s lease of the land to the Club.
Antony Fletcher, who lives nearby on the Causeway, embarked on a three-year battle with the council to bring the cottage, and adjoining bungalow, empty since 2008, back into use.
“Thinking about the waste makes me boil with rage,” he told the County Times. “To present the same old excuses they give for doing nothing for ten years shows the council in a long state of dither.”
Mr Fletcher, now retired, set up the national Empty Houses Association, and was also chief executive of London and Quadrant Housing Trust. He advised Sir George Young as minister for housing and planning in the early 1990s.
He took up the plight of the cottage, and attached bungalow, back in 2009 after informal discussions with the cricket club.
However when he put forward redevelopment proposals, they were refused by the council and a Freedom of Information request into ongoing development proposals was then blocked on commercially sensitive grounds.
In December 2011 the leader of the council’s office said that the lease restricted the cottage’s use for anything other than a groundsman connected to the cricket ground.
Mr Fletcher said: “If I was a homeless person I think it would make me very angry to see it get into such disrepair and to not enforce the terms of the lease which state it should be properly maintained.”
A spokesperson for Horsham District Council said: “Horsham District Council is currently considering the future of the site and this includes the possible relocation of a recreational use from elsewhere. At this stage it is not possible to comment further because of commercial sensitivity but if the idea is considered feasible a planning application will be made and the usual publicity and consultation will take place.
“The confidential status of our current discussions is the reason why the earlier FOI request was declined. We hope to be in a position to issue a further statement this summer.
“In the meantime no further action is proposed where the cottage is concerned as any such action could prove unnecessary and wasteful.”