No to new place of worship

AN EQUESTRIAN centre at Slinfold cannot be turned into a Grail Foundation place of worship, a government planning inspector has ruled.

Patrick Whitehead dismissed the appeal against Horsham District Council’s refusal of the change of use of the Bridge House Equestrian Centre at Five Oaks Road, including gardens, car parking and demolition of buildings.

He said the centre operates as a livery yard, including 55 stables and other buildings include a large indoor riding school, which would become a place of worship.

Use would be mainly at weekends for an hour of worship followed by a period of private individual reflection in the gardens and three or four long weekend festivals during the year for up to 150 people. The centre would be a national headquarters.

“A rural location is seen as important for quiet contemplation which cannot be attained in an urban setting, including the loss of composure experienced when congregants spill out onto the road and pavement at the present urban location,” the inspector said.

The proposal was not in accord with the Horsham Core Strategy or the Government’s objectives for rural areas.

Attendance would be 60 to 70 from across the South East, with the majority in Kent and south London, with some arriving by rail and minibus from Horsham.

“However, it seems to me that the majority – and particularly those travelling from Kent – would be more likely to use private cars since public transport options appear limited and the site is remote from centres of population,” he said, which went against government objectives to reduce the need to travel by car.

The equestrian centre appeared ‘well used’, ‘appropriately located with a public bridleway alongside the southern boundary’.

The appellant said the centre had been on the market for several years but there was no ‘substantive evidence’ of this nor was it suggested existing use is not viable.

Caretakers’ accommodation to be used for setting up periods for weekend and festival occasions could not be enforced through conditions and the inspector said there was no information why other accommodation in the area was not suitable or the caretaker could live locally.