Mushroom farm and homes plan in Thakeham inches forward

HOR 081011 Aerial photo. Thakeham showing the Abingworth site of the mushroom farm. photo by derek martin
HOR 081011 Aerial photo. Thakeham showing the Abingworth site of the mushroom farm. photo by derek martin

Despite objections from the action group and parish council plans for 146 homes and renovation to the mushroom farm in Thakeham cleared another hurdle on Tuesday.

Horsham District Council’s development control south committee confirmed its resolution from September, which delegated the two applications for 146 homes on the old Abingworth Nursery site, and the demolition and replacement of buildings on the Chesswood Nursery site, for approval.

Since investment is needed towards renovation of the former Sussex Mushrooms production site to continue the businesses viability, a financial contribution of £3.75m from the housebuilder will be made towards enabling works.

Around 380 people are currently employed on-site - the equivalent of 350 full time jobs.

Liz Kitchen (Con, Colgate and Rusper), said: “I do not understand what all the fuss is about. It’s a brownfield site that’s crying out for help.”

She continued: “We are lucky we are only getting 140 houses. I would expect it would be triple that.”

Jean Locker, of Thakeham Village Action, protested against the link between the two applications, and felt that without the contribution to enabling works on the mushroom farm, the application for 146 homes would not be approved.

She said: “We have been advised that, as this case now stands, a decision to grant planning permission would be liable to a successful judicial review.

“In our view, you have not been provided with sufficient information on the lawfulness of the applications.”

However Philip Circus (Con Chanctonbury), a lawyer himself, told members there was little chance of a successful judicial review, and the community had received ample opportunity to contribute towards the plans.

He said: “I have no doubt it will be of enormous benefit to Thakeham.”

Plans would see cricket and football pitches on the Abingworth site, with a village hall, while composting, which has been the reported cause of smells in the village, will be moved off-site to Hampshire.

Monaghan Mushrooms, the UK’s biggest mushroom grower, took over Sussex Mushrooms in September 2011.

Roger Arthur (Con, Chanctonbury), said: “Without housing development that site will not be cleared up.”

Three Conservative councillors abstained from the final vote.