LETTER: Design quality is fundamental

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Last week’s report on the Horsham Society’s reaction to the proposed multiplex cinema in Swan Walk may have mistakenly left the impression that we are against the scheme as a whole which is not the case.

Swan Walk plays a very important part in the overall town centre economy and its continued success and prosperity is essential to its future.

The shopping habits which drove the design of the current mall have changed and Swan Walk needs to adapt to meet the modern desire for a combined shopping, leisure and eating experience.

It is a tribute to the continued attraction of Horsham, and a belief in its future economic success, that Aviva is prepared to invest heavily in remodelling Swan Walk to create a multiplex cinema and new restaurants.

So we welcome the scheme in principle.

The society has, however, expressed considerable concern over the proposed external design and finish.

The building it is to replace is already tall so height is not an issue and the re-modelling will largely be to the internal structure.

The proposed external design bears no relation to other buildings in the locality in materials or style, and will appear monolithic.

The use of large areas of vertical metal cladding would be more appropriate in an industrial zone than in a market town and close to a conservation area.

We have suggested a number of ways in which the design might be improved with the introduction of windows or glazed internal walkways at an upper level.

We have also objected to the incorporation of parts of the street into private seating spaces for the restaurants, and to the lack of any apparent co-ordination with the overall plan for the public realm at the Lynd Cross junction which the council is currently developing.

National planning policy makes it clear that the quality of design is of fundamental importance and requires planning authorities to have local design review arrangements, such as an external design panel, in place.

This prominent site deserves better than is currently proposed and it would not take a lot of extra thought, or cost, to make the design much better.

In considering the scheme, it is incumbent on the members of the Development Management Committee to consider the design very carefully, if necessary by seeking advice from an external body.

David Griffiths

Secretary, Planning Sub Committee, The Horsham Society, Worthing Road, Horsham

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