Public inquiry called for Horsham gypsy site

JPCT 021012 Planning request Deer Park Farm, Leechpool Wood, Horsham. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 021012 Planning request Deer Park Farm, Leechpool Wood, Horsham. Photo by Derek Martin

An appeal into a rejected gypsy and traveller site in Horsham will be decided by an inquiry after its proximity to a Grade II* listed building was raised on Wednesday.

Horsham District Council rejected the application on Deer Park Farm in Hampers Lane for a caravan for residential purposes, and the building of a dayroom and utility room in October 2012, a decision the applicant appealed.

More than 100 residents packed into Roffey Millenium Hall to hear the appeal, but just as it started the site’s proximity to St Leonard’s Park, which is an English Heritage Grade II* listed building, was raised.

Peter Tufnell, acting on behalf of several residents in Hampers Lane and the surrounding area, said: “This site is located within historic parkland setting of the listed building. That historic parkland is not listed itself but it is listed as a constraint on the council’s website.

“We say it’s clearly part of the existing listed building.”

He thought that the effect should have been advertised, something not done by HDC.

Matthew Green, former Liberal Democrat MP for Ludlow and well-known advocate of gypsies and travellers, branded the move ‘not clever’.

Representing applicant George Hunt at the appeal, Mr Green railed against the decision to bring up the issue of a Grade II* listed property at this time as ‘essentially an ambush’.

He expressed his dissatisfaction that the matter had not been raised before, but Mr Tufnell said he had contacted Horsham District Council once the matter was brought to his attention.

St Leonard’s Park, listed on the English Heritage’s website as a 19th century mansion, was a nursing home before being sold and converted into high-end flats around a decade ago.

The site’s listed-building status was not considered a factor in the original application, as HDC’s representative at the appeal Mike Bleakley said it was too far away from Deer Park Farm, and therefore English Heritage were not consulted.

However his assertion that it was half a mile away was challenged by residents.

The application was originally rejected because of concerns that the site was in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. At the time Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest) raised the point that the application had taken two-and-a-half years to reach the committee.

Residents maintained the site was an important beauty spot enjoyed by dog walkers.