Plans for flats that ’risked creating a ghetto’ in the heart of Horsham were rejected by the council last week.
Housing association Saxon Weald had hoped to gain permission to demolish its sheltered housing for the elderly, mostly bungalows, in Winterton Court and replace them with 65 flats and four homes for affordable housing.
This decision is a disappointment both to us and to some of the hundreds of families who are on Horsham District Council’s waiting listSaxon Weald spokesperson
But Horsham District Council’s Development Control North Committee threw out proposals last Tuesday on the grounds of overdevelopment and the scheme’s impact on the surrounding New Street area.
After the meeting residents described feeling ‘happy’ and ‘relieved’, but a spokesperson for Saxon Weald said: “This decision is a disappointment both to us and to some of the hundreds of families who are on Horsham District Council’s waiting list.”
David Holmes (LDem, Horsham Park) said the development was ‘too big’ and felt the cumulative effect of plans, alongside the recently completed Standings Court affordable housing scheme nearby, would be ‘unacceptable’ on the highly congested area of Victorian housing.
He questioned whether they should be putting people in five storey blocks of flats, and asked members if a total of 159 children in the two developments would create a balanced community.
Dr Holmes added: “One officer referred to the risk of creating a ghetto. I believe the risk is real and we could live to regret it.”
His comments were echoed by Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park), leader of the Lib Dem Group at HDC, who described the current site as an ‘oasis in the heart of the town’ and was unhappy with proposals as the housing was too dense to provide suitable homes for families.
The scheme would have created four blocks of housing ranging between two and five stories with some looking on to the railway line and others facing the back gardens of terraced properties in New Street.
Concerns were raised over traffic safety in New Street, a loss of privacy for existing residents, the effect of car parking overspill on the surrounding road network, and the ability of Horsham’s schools and GP surgeries to cope with any extra demand.
Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) felt it was ‘quite simply overdevelopment’ with not enough green spaces for families, adding that some of the bulidings looked like a ‘prison complex’.
John Chidlow (Con, Southwater) argued in favour of proposals as affordable housing was needed now, while he wondered if ‘we suffer from an over-affluent committee’.
Andrew Smith, HDC’s strategic housing manager, told councillors this type of housing so close to the town was rare and ‘like hen’s teeth’.
But Roy Cornell (Con, Roffey South) said: “The need for housing in the area yes I quite agree but not at any cost.”
He felt some of the blocks looked like commercial warehouses, while David Skipp (LDem, Roffey North) argued that if the site was as rare as hen’s teeth it deserved something special, not something mundane, and described the scheme as ‘social engineering gone wrong’.
Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham) called the design of the blocks ‘ugly’ and expressed concerns about capacity at Horsham schools and GP practices.
At the end of the debate Dr Holmes hoped the council could work with Saxon Weald to design something that was ‘good for the people who are going to live in it’.
Writing to the County Times this week David Standfast, chief executive at Saxon Weald, said that they had intended to ‘create homes for local working people paying an affordable rent. These people will now have to continue waiting’.
On the use of the word ‘ghetto’ to refer to Saxon Weald’s proposal, Mr Standfast also asked people to moderate their language and to consider the needs of people without adequate housing.