Take-away decision is put off by council

POTENTIAL smells, road safety and fire access problems led to a decision being deferred on a new take-away at Lambs Farm Road, Horsham.

Horsham district councillors were considering proposals for change of use from retail or office to a hot food take-away and a chimney to service the extract duct at Enterprise House, 80 Lambs Farm Road.

The planning application was considered at a development control meeting on November 1. Officers recommended granting permission but councillors and residents were keen to refuse the plan.

A petition signed by 183 people had been received, along with 28 letters of objection and residents packed the public gallery of the council chamber applauding those who spoke out against it.

Helen Croft (Con, Roffey North) said similar plans were refused on appeal this year. “Traffic and parking is already dangerous,” she said and it was difficult for pedestrians there as the parking bays were across the pavement.

There had been at least one accident involving a pedestrian, there would be odour, problems with rubbish could lead to rodents and there could be anti-social behaviour and noise issues.

Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) said there was no need for a take-away and ‘despite West Sussex County Council’s views there are considerable traffic problems on this road’.

Since the appeal was turned down changes made to the plan included internal seating. “We know where that will lead,” he said.

He called on the council to be consistent, stating two similar applications nearby in Rusper Road had been turned down due to noise and traffic. He said they should not concentrate on the chimney being the only reason the inspector dismissed the appeal.

Resident Janet Rogers felt the council should be guided by the Localism Bill rather than the ‘opinion of a faceless planning inspector’ who didn’t live in the area and was an ‘unelected and unaccountable official’.

She said applications for take-aways had been turned down three times in recent years for the ‘unneighbourly impact’ and asked why this plan was different.

Other residents said they were concerned about emissions from cooking and they had commissioned a report which said the extraction system was ‘seriously flawed’.

Michael Bailey said parking was a major concern in the area and questioned the report saying sustainable transport could be used by customers. “There’s Littlehaven station,” he said. “Are people going to be coming from Crawley to get their take-away?”

He pointed out the flats above the shops had only one access which would be across the back of the take-away kitchen.

David Skipp (LDem, Roffey North) proposed refusal of the application but lost the vote.

He said he had almost been run over looking at the site that day and a petition signed by nearly 200 residents could not be taken lightly.

“It is not a safe area,” he said and questioned how it could be safe for cars to drive over a pavement to park.

Motorcycles would be making deliveries at 10pm and it wouldn’t be long before an extension was asked for. He was also concerned about the fire escape issue for the flats above.

“I’m being asked to approve a system of extraction for a shop or business I don’t know anything about,” said Dr Skipp.

“I don’t know what sort of extraction system should be in place, how high the chimney should be. I don’t feel I will be able to support this in any way, shape or form.”

Jim Rae (Con, Holbrook East) said: “I have rarely seen an application where West Sussex County Council highways and a planning inspector have got things so very wrong.”

Traffic and parking would ‘exacerbate an already precarious situation’ and he didn’t want to be responsible for any accidents that might follow.

David Sheldon (LDem, Denne) and David Holmes (LDem, Horsham Park) said they should refuse it on the grounds they didn’t know if the chimney was adequate.

Chairman Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate) suggested they defer the decision rather than delegate it.

“There is such a strength of feeling we need to decide this in open session,” she said. “I would be unhappy about making a decision which would be seen to be behind closed doors, although it wouldn’t be.”