An Amberley development for 15 homes has been narrowly refused by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).
Developers want permission for the new homes including affordable housing off the B2139 Turnpike Road via an existing private access road to Newland Gardens.
However national park officers have objected the proposals as they feel the scheme has not been designed in a landscape-led way.
Members of the SDNPA’s planning committee narrowly backed officers, voting to refuse the application for the 15 homes by five votes to four on Thursday (April 11).
Neville Harrison, chair of the committee, said: “This [site] could accommodate 15 homes but it has to be landscape led not numbers led.”
Earlier in the meeting Peter Cozens, speaking for Amberley Parish Council, argued that the application was a test of whether localism means anything in the national park or ‘whether it’s just a nice word’.
He added: “This development is something the local community both support and we believe we have demonstrated the housing need.”
Meanwhile agent Chris Barker, from ECE, said they had found themselves in a ‘frustration position’ and described the recommendation for refusal from officers as ‘unfortunate’.
Committee members were split on their opinions of the application.
Several members felt the site could still accommodate 15 homes if the design and layout of the scheme was altered.
Anthony Watts Williams said: “We really should not be in this situation in terms of density. This is less dense than other developments in and around Amberley.”
Alun Alesbury said he had ‘no difficulty at all’ with the proposed density, adding: “It seems to me there is tweaking to the detailed scheme which would not necessarily involve the reduction of the development.”
Officers explained they did not feel the scheme as currently submitted met the national park’s first objective to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.
One example was the two parallel access roads with others being the dominance of hardstanding and cars and a lack of public realm space.
They added: “It does not really look out into the countryside and respect that transition as well.”
Doug Jones said: “I do not think anyone around this table is diminishing anything they have done at all, this is absolutely the right site. It’s just a matter of how this is brought to bear and how it’s designed and laid out.”
Ian Phillips added: “I think it provides housing and I think it provides shelter for people who want shelter, but I do not think that’s good enough in a national park where we are looking at a landscape led approach and looking for high design standards.”