An application to demolish a historic Horsham building has been rejected by councillors.
Plans were submitted by retirement property developer McCarthy and Stone in January to turn Prewetts Mill, in Worthing Road, into assisted living accommodation.
However, at Horsham District Council’s Development Control North meeting, held at Parkside on Tuesday, councillors voted to support the officer recommendations and refuse the application due to the scale and design of the new building.
The application proposed demolishing the old mill and replacing it with 55 flats extended over six floors offering extra care and assisted living for residents aged 70 and over.
Planning officers recommended councillors refuse the application due to the scale and mass of the building and because the 40 per cent affordable housing target had not been met.
Mike Alete, the architect who has designed the new building, said the design and scale was appropriate compared to other buildings in the town and wanted the building to be a transition point for people entering from Worthing Road.
Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) disagreed.
He said: “It is a very disappointing application.
“This would be totally out of character and it would be appropriate in a new town.”
He added he felt the developer should look at ways of incorporating the old building into a new design to keep some of the town’s history.
Councillor Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar) agreed.
She said: “Look at the building, it is absolutely awful and wrong for Horsham. It is a dreadful welcome to the town to see that.
“I know it is not easy to blend old with new but people do it, towns do it.
“I know it’s not pretty but at least it’s Horsham and we have had so many of Horsham’s beautiful buildings already pulled down.”
Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) added: “It is reminiscent of one of the worse buildings from the 1960s.”
Denne Neighbourhood Council has also objected to the scheme and many residents have previously described the loss of the old mill as a tragedy.
However councillor Adrian Lee (Con, Denne) said although he saw problems with the design he felt the historic argument had already been lost due to previous development of the site in the 1980s.
He said: “The historic building perception is just that, it is a perception.
“Whilst I get that people think it’s oversized and disproportionate I think it would be good if we could work with the applicant to try and get a positive outcome for the site.
“I fear if we don’t it will be left to fall into ruin.”
Mr Lee added he also thought it was a good opportunity to improve access into the town from Worthing Road.
Tony Hogben (Con, Denne) agreed the site needed to be developed but felt he could not support the application in its current form.
He said: “My initial impression of the building was that it was out of character and out of keeping with the current neighbourhood. I feel the design is overly large and overly bold.”
Prewetts Mill was built in 1861 and the site redeveloped in the early 1980s.
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