Southwater at ‘limit’ after 594 homes approved

A group of petitioners gathered outside Park House in Horsham on a wet afternoon to witness the handover of their petition to the Chairman of Horsham District Council, Cllr O'Connell.'all copyrights reserved � 2015 Art Hutchins ~ www.artseye.me SUS-150217-152844001
A group of petitioners gathered outside Park House in Horsham on a wet afternoon to witness the handover of their petition to the Chairman of Horsham District Council, Cllr O'Connell.'all copyrights reserved � 2015 Art Hutchins ~ www.artseye.me SUS-150217-152844001

Plans for 594 new homes in Southwater were approved by the district council despite widespread opposition in the village.

Berkeley Homes’ outline application for up to 540 dwellings and 54 retirement living apartments on land west of Worthing Road was discussed by Horsham District Council’s Development Control North Committee on Tuesday.

While almost 3,000 residents supported a petition against the proposals, councillors concluded there were no planning grounds for refusal as the strategic site is included within the council’s recently examined planning strategy.

After the meeting Richard Page, of Keep Southwater Green (KSG),said: “Keep Southwater Green will argue this is the limit [of development] and no more unless you want to see Southwater as a village collapse and become a dormitory sprawl.”

Objector Barry Laflin felt the proposals would ‘alter the whole character of the village forever’, while Ian Thwaites raised the issue of anthrax contamination as in the 1960s diseased cows were burned and reportedly buried in a field between Worthing Road and Great House Farm.

Dr Thwaites also argued the homes would have a great impact on the village’s already ‘over stretched’ facilities and infrastructure.

But Andrew McPhillips, on behalf of Berkeley Homes, described Southwater as a sustainable location and told councillors the development could be well integrated with the existing houses.

He said: “Our vision is to create a thriving sustainable development where residents enjoy a good quality of life.”

Plans for the 34.6 hectare site will see replacement sports facilities in the western edge of the site, two new access points to the site in Worthing Road, and a redesigned Church Lane.

On Monday KSG presented a petition to the chairman of HDC signed by 2,833 residents opposing further large-scale development in the village and opposing Berkeley Homes’ ‘unacceptable’ application.

At Tuesday’s planning meeting John Chidlow (Con, Southwater) raised concerns over the anthrax issue, the current and future danger to cyclists trying to navigate the Hop Oast roundabout, and the 30 per cent level of affordable housing,

On the contamination issue Nigel Silmon of Public Health England, a world expert on anthrax, told councillors that they had gathered extensive environmental samples in February last year and the risk was ‘extremely low’.

The condition on contamination was revised by officers ‘to ensure that the historic contamination does not cause an impact to human health’.

Officers pointed towards viability work done on the level of affordable housing and they would look to use £200,000 in contributions towards improving the mix in favour of affordable rented from shared ownership.

The strategic site is included within HDC’s planning framework, which was tested by the planning inspector in November. He released an interim report before Christmas and while he seemed to accept HDC’s overall strategy, he told the council to find an extra 2,000 homes in the district.

Wates Developments submitted a planning application to HDC for 193 homes south of Southwater on land off Mill Straight late last year.