Controversial bid to build new homes overbusiness park to be determined on appeal

A Government planning inspector will determine the fate of a long running dispute over the re-development of a small business park in Storrington.

Sunday, 16th December 2012, 7:08 am

A third attempt by Pulborough-based developers Whittington Homes Ltd to build a collection of new homes on the Gerston Farm Business Park, off Greyfriars Lane, was unanimously rejected, with one abstention, by the South Downs National Park Authority in October.

This was despite a recommendation by officers to approve the scheme. Now, Whittington has lodged an appeal, meaning after years of wrangling the Government inspector will decide.

Storrington and Sullington Parish Council has objected to the application ‘on the grounds the proposal is outside of the built up area and does not meet the Facilitating Apprpriate Development requirements’.

The Storrington Downs Residents’ Association has also long campaigned against the loss of the local employment - nine businesses employing 19 people they say - in favour of ‘expensive homes’.

Its chair Penny Richmond is urging concerned villagers to continue the fight.

“We would urge all those who have previously expressed their opposition to the scheme to write or email the planning inspector reiterating their objections to the proposed development.”

The group has support from some of Gerston Park’s sitting tenants, some of whom say they have been given notice, while others’ rents have increased.

“The reality is that there are no other similar sites in the area, offering small workshops at affordable prices,” said Neil Burns a small builder based in Gerston Park.

His views are echoed by Lawrence Hodgkins who says his car repair and spraying business would have to fold if the site were redeveloped: “The two other light industrial sites near Storrington are not suitable for my business. Anyway I can’t afford to move as I invested recently in new spraying equipment.”

However, Mark Whittington the managing director of Whittington Homes, which recently won an appeal for 75 homes off Washinton Road, believes the fate of the small businesses is already sealed. He told the County Times: “There are three land owners who are no longer interested in running the industrial site which now needs substantial repair, renovation and investment.

“We have worked closely with the South Downs National Park and Horsham District Council to bring forward an acceptable, sympathetic scheme and indeed received officers recommendation for approval at the recent SDNP meeting.”

Mr Whittinton added that the land owners have just two options. The first being to develop six domestic dwellings and three business units on the site - a ‘much preferred’ solution answering a proved local need for housing.

Or the second option he says is to redevelop the site with industrial buildings with increased floor space, making it more ‘commercially viable’.

Appeal comments by Dec 21 (3 copies) to 3/22 Temple Quary House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6PN or, quoting APP/Y9507/A/12/2186582/NWF].