Angry councillors berated a housing association for delaying tactics on a project to transform one of Horsham’s most glaring eyesores.
North Horsham Parish Council had hoped the site, at the junction of Crawley Road and Littlehaven Lane in Roffey, would see the site tidied up after planning permission was granted for 14 properties in July 2012 by Horsham District Council.
However, in an email circulated at a parish council meeting last Thursday, David Foden, head of development at Guinness South, blamed a combination of the 2008 banking crisis, and the collapse of the Housing and Communities Agency grant regime for delays to starting the project.
Roger Wilton, chairman of North Horsham Parish Council, denounced the response as disingenuous and inflammatory, while other councillors labelled the response a delaying tactic by the Guinness Trust.
“We have been fobbed off,” Mr Wilton said.
“It’s Guinness’ fault, it’s not HDC’s fault. It’s disingenuous and puts my colleagues at Horsham District Council at a disadvantage by inflammatory statements.”
Fenced off by blue hoardings and empty for the better part of a decade, it has often been the target of vandalism according to neighbours.
In his email to NHPC, Mr Foden said that Guinness had missed getting the project in HCA’s programme for 2011-2015, offering no clear guarantees that the project would ever be delivered.
Mike Brakes called for a site order to at least tidy up the spot if building work was not imminent, and if needed, ask HDC to introduce a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).
He said: “The public requires a clear statement.
“I propose the recommendation that Horsham District Council move towards a CPO to bring the issue to a head as we continue to seek an acceptable solution.”
However parish and district councillor Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook East) advised members that given HDC’s finances a CPO was unlikely, but the site could be demolished and car parking provided as an interim solution.
He added: “We need to state how angry we are as a parish at this sordid site that has sat here for 10 years.”
Mr Wilton suggested that they at least enquire into the current market value of the site.
It was agreed that a letter would be sent to HDC, while Mr Burgess would request a meeting with HDC chief executive Tom Crowley to discuss the medium term future of the site.
When asked whether the project had stalled a spokesperson for HDC said: “At a meeting of Horsham District Council’s Development Control (North) Committee on 3 July 2012, the planning application (DC/12/0744) was delegated for approval subject to the consideration of various detailed matters and the completion of a legal agreement in respect of infrastructure contributions.”
Guinness Trust was approached for comment.