‘Bizarre’ Steyning skate park application refused

SH 160614 Site for proposed skate park in Steyning next to the leisure centre. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140617-090640001
SH 160614 Site for proposed skate park in Steyning next to the leisure centre. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140617-090640001

A controversial skate park application was labelled ‘bizarre’ and ‘undeliverable’ by councillors and refused consent despite a planning officer’s recommendation for approval.

Chairman of Friends of Memorial Playing Field (FoMPF)Peter Comber’s plan was deemed ‘dangerous’ for children and like a ‘Lewis Carroll/Catch 22 situation’ by Horsham District Councillors at Tuesday’s (June 17) development control committee meeting.

Sheila Matthews (Ind: Henfield) said: “This must be one of the most bizarre planning applications.

“It’s quite dangerous. We have a skate park in an area which is very congested with access onto a busy road. The car park will become overly used.

“It needs to be where children can walk safely,” she said.

The skate facility, which is proposed to be located in Steyning Leisure Centre’s car park, has been publicly backed by action ground FoMPF, which opposes Steyning Parish Council’s own skate park application for the town’s Memorial Playing Field.

Before the committee meeting commenced, a letter from local resident Michael Bissett-Powell was circulated amongst councillors to state that the planning officer’s report on HDC’s Planning Portal website still recommends refusal, and claimed that Sussex Police and the Highways Department’s comments are incomplete. However, this letter was not debated during the meeting.

A resident objector to the skate park plan, Mike Kelly, said: “Parents have expressed their opposition to a caged facility hidden behind the Leisure Centre, adjacent to a busy car park with access off the dangerous Horsham Road.”

In support, George Cockman (Ind: Steyning) said that the application should be granted approval with a view to then review the parish council’s own application when it comes to the committee.

“The recommendation has gone through a long and strict process. There’s been a long history of cooperation,” he said.

Mr Cockman’s stance was not supported by other council members who collectively opposed the plan, predominantly based on its location, the cage fencing that will surround the facility, and its close proximity to Steyning Grammar School.

Head teacher of Steyning Grammar School, Nick Wergen, said the skate park would be ‘unsafe’ for children and ‘disrupt’ teachers.

“This application is totally opposed by the school. It has no place in the school or curriculum.

“It is a serious risk to safeguarding our children. Any risk is unacceptable,” he said.

The plan was refused planning permission and will be delegated to officers to clarify the reasons for refusal.

Brian O’Connell (Con: Henfield) said it would be ‘undeliverable’ if it was passed due to a number of factors that could not be guaranteed by the developer, including a proposal that DC Leisure should allow children to use its toilet facilities.

After the meeting, Mr Kelly, said it was the best result for the situation at hand, but he fears it will not stop FoMPF from trying again.

Vice chairman Paul Campbell of FoMPF said that the group would be appealing the committee’s decision.

He said: “As the officer’s report made plain, there were no proper planning grounds for a refusal. In the circumstances we will be appealing and are confident the planning inspector will reverse this decision.”