‘Relief’ as new school is approved in Barns Green’s ‘victory for localism’

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A new school and 69 homes will be built in Barns Green after the council granted planning permission, a move that has delighted many villagers.

The application was deferred in April to allow Horsham District Council to negotiate with developers Berkeley Homes and West Sussex County Council over affordable homes provision.

The new £4.2m state-of-the-art buildings will consolidate split-site Itchingfield Primary School on to one premises in Barns Green.

69 homes will also be built west of the railway line north of Two Mile Ash Road after plans were approved by HDC’s Development Control North Committee on Tuesday May 21.

Simon Simmons, head teacher of Itchingfield Primary School, said: “It’s a huge relief.

“It has been a long wait and now we can start the real work. I would like to thank everybody in Barns Green for their support over the years that it has taken to come to fruition.”

Residents packed out the council chambers and wildly applauded the decision to approve plans.

Penny Simpson, chairman of Itchingfield Parish Council, called the decision a victory for localism, and said the decision had been a no-brainer.

She said that proposals would bring many other community benefits alongside the new school.

Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham) said: “This whole application has involved the entire village and local community and can be considered true localism and neighbourhood involvement in planning.”

Stuart Ritchie (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham) added: “The case for approval is overwhelming.

“This is transformational for the parish of Itchingfield and I remain of this view.”

Six units will be shared ownership affordable homes, as both West Sussex County Council and HDC accepted lower infrastructure contributions, with Berkeley Homes also making a financial contribution under the new deal thrashed out in negotiations last month.

Councillor ‘ashamed’ to be council member

However the Liberal Democrat leader on the council said he was ‘ashamed’ to be a Horsham district councillor as they were throwing away their planning policies by allowing an ‘unscrupulous developer’ to build homes and not provide affordable housing.

During the debate David Holmes (LDem, Horsham Park) said: “I believe in pragmatism and common sense, I would like to stretch our policies as far as we can and allow this school to go ahead but giving approval here cannot be justified.

“We would be throwing away our policies and giving in to unscrupulous developers. This might benefit Barns Green but we would be letting down everyone else across the district if we do not treat everyone alike.

“This application and the recommendation to approve make me ashamed to be a member of this council.”

He and others questioned why they were having to sacrifice affordable housing for an educational facility that West Sussex County Council should be providing.

Others praised HDC chief executive Tom Crowley for negotiating the affordable homes element.

However Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest) questioned whether the six added shared ownership properties should even be termed affordable housing, as there was virtually no difference between them and market housing.

During the meeting Ian Howard (Con, Southwater) asked if Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West), would be apologising to all members in the council chamber who he had called ‘lunatics’, because of a comment piece he had penned for the County Times last month.

However Mr Mitchell said it was unsatisfactory that the committee had not been told prior to the April meeting, where plans were deferred, that the developer Berkeley Homes had made an alternative proposal on affordable housing.

Conservatives Andrew Baldwin and Simon Torn, and Liberal Democrats Frances Haigh, Dr Holmes, Mr Newman and Malcolm Curnock abstained from the final vote.