‘Planning breach councillor’ claims he was fighting to keep firm in village

Horsham District Councillor John Bailey - picture submitted
Horsham District Councillor John Bailey - picture submitted

A Horsham District councillor has defended an alleged planning condition breach by saying he was trying to keep one of Rudgwick’s businesses in the village.

HDC colleagues on the development control committee voted on Tuesday to start enforcement action on John Bailey’s shed in Highcroft Drive, Rudgwick authorised to be used for his business Rudgwick Metals.

JPCT 141212 Dispute over access across driveway in Rudgwick. Owner Oliver Ward. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 141212 Dispute over access across driveway in Rudgwick. Owner Oliver Ward. Photo by Derek Martin

They had heard that over the past year, the Conservative councillor has allowed it to be used by mechanic Talon Motors and has since faced complaints from neighbours of disturbance, trespass and increased traffic using the private road.

Vernon Bryan, of Highcroft Drive, told members: “I have had a grandstand view of a hundred yards of single track road with a blind corner opposite a drive entrance and witnessed several near misses. Then last summer suddenly the storage shed became Talon Motors.

“The owner and his mechanics drive up in the morning, down for lunch, back up again after lunch and home in the evening, plus the customers’ cars, plus numerous spare parts deliveries.”

He added that there was also an agreement that the drive should not be used for commercial traffic.

Neighbour Oliver Ward, whose drive is used to access the shed, was represented at Tuesday’s meeting by his solicitor Don Burstow. He said: “Mr Bailey made two attempts in 1992/93 to extend the use, but was unsuccessful.”

Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar) attracted astonishment from the public gallery when he suggested they delay action to allow Talon Motors to find a new home. He said: “The present occupier of this building is in a temporary situation pending an availability of new units, even though it is a breach in planning conditions.”

But officers said they had asked Mr Bailey’s agents for an application to regulate the breach, but “none had been forthcoming”.

Ian Howard (Con, Southwater) said: “To me it’s quite clear. It’s unlawful use of the building, which is now being used by another company. We should obviously issue the breach notice.”

Jim Rae (Con, Holbrook East) agreed. “I don’t think we have any room for manoeuvre. There has been a breach and I believe we should support the officers’ recommendation,” he said.

Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) said: “I’m disappointed that no application to regularise this breach has come forward, but I don’t think we have any choice but to favour a breach in condition notice.”

The committee voted unanimously to take action and if the notice is ignored, the use of the shed in this way will be illegal.

Also on the agenda was enforcement action against unauthorised work Mr Bailey has had done on a former pigsty on his land at Windacres Farm, Rudgwick. It is currently half demolished with a green metal frame exposed on the landscape.

Officers said actions should be ‘proportionate to the breach’ and recommended no action be taken currently, but to reserve the right to pursue an order in the future.

Members agreed, but considering the first alleged planning breach, asked officers to monitor the situation.

David Sheldon (LDem, Denne) said: “What will happen if it stays as it is and no application comes in?”

David Holmes (LDem, Horsham Park) said: “I strongly feel we should be setting some kind of timescale for this. It could be left like this.”

They unanimously agreed for officers to bring it back to the committee in six months if the current situation remains.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Bailey said: “Mr Alex Haynes of Talon Motors had been searching for a number of months, unsuccessfully, to find accommodation for his motor servicing business as he had to leave his previous accommodation on the edge of Rudgwick village.

“I offered him temporary accommodation sharing my old warehouse until such time as a new unit became available on the Windacres Farm site. We had hoped that a unit would have been available much sooner.”

“The lawful use certificate of 1993 allows me to keep lorries in my old warehouse and Mr Haynes’ business is simple servicing similar to one I would carry out on lorries.

“The service that Mr Haynes provides to the residents in the village is very important as he provides a general service for all makes of car which is not available locally.

“Mr Haynes, as part of his local service, will collect and return the car. The alternative would have been for residents of the village to have to travel some distance to get their car serviced.

“My offer to Mr Haynes was to keep a local business and service in the village in business.”

“The pigsty and swill room are an agricultural building and I informed the council of my actions that once the repairs are completed it would remain an agriculture storage building, weather-proof and secure.”