Park redevelopment plans halted after public outcry

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Plans to redevelop part of Horsham Park by converting a grassed volleyball court into a ‘hardstanding’ events area have been postponed following a public outcry.

The proposals - put forward by Horsham District Council - attracted hundreds of objections on the council’s own website and on social media.

This week objectors welcomed the plan’s postponement - and thanked the West Sussex County Times for highlighting their concerns in last week’s newspaper.

Sally Sanderson, of Parkside Mews, is among those spearheading opposition to what local residents say will be the erosion of another of Horsham’s green spaces.

She said the proposals for the park - seen by many as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the district - had been vague but that the volleyball area could be used as an ice rink and Christmas market, among other events.

In a letter to the council, another objector pleaded: “Stop destroying all the green land in Horsham. The park is a tranquil place of beauty and should not be concreted over.”

The council announced on Monday that it was postponing consideration of the proposals.

It followed an email sent by Horsham Park councillor Connor Relleen - seen by this newspaper - to council planning director Dr Chris Lyons in which he said: “When I talk to local residents, read the objections and consider the illogic of the overall proposal, I can’t help but conclude that this is an extraordinarily hapless and ill-fated attempt to run roughshod over the concerns of local residents.”

In a reply - also seen by this newspaper - Dr Lyons says the application was submitted at short notice so that ice rink operators could try to get the site ready for a rink by Christmas, adding: “I agree this should have had discussion with councillors in advance.”

In a statement issued to the County Times on Monday, the council set out its position.

It said: “As a response to last week’s article in the West Sussex County Times, Horsham District Council wishes to correct a number of misleading statements which have led to misunderstandings and confusion amongst the general public.

“The area currently suffers badly from flooding and consequently spends a lot of time unused. The plans put forward by the council aimed to improve its usage and appearance by adapting the space for an events area which could be used for a variety of activities – sports related and otherwise.

“Let’s be clear. The proposed area which will be resurfaced is approximately the size of three and a half volleyball courts.

“The proposed surface material being used to create the new surface is most certainly not concrete or tarmac. It is a natural material that will be in keeping with the green space it will occupy.

“The area will not be used for public car parking.

“No trees in Horsham Park will be removed in the proposed renovation.

“In view of the confusion which has now arisen as a result of information circulated by both unknown sources, and inaccurate reporting in last week’s newspaper, the council has now decided to postpone the application to give us more time to respond to the comments we have received.”