A councillor has suggested expanding the number of locally listed buildings in the Horsham area to coincide with the coming Year of Culture.
Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury) spoke at a meeting of Horsham District Council’s cabinet last month, where a report about the updated Heath Common village design statement was being discussed.
The Heath Common area, which is in the Washington parish, has at its core a number of narrow interlinked lanes.
The design statement has been used to provide supplementary planning guidance to the council since 1999 but now carries little weight as it refers to out of date planning documents and was written before the National Planning Policy Framework came into effect in 2012.
A report put before the meeting stated that the new design ‘seeks to align with current planning policy whilst continuing to protect the unique character of the area’.
It was a point seized upon by Mr Circus who asked why more could not be done to preserve the character of the district – such as expanding the council’s local listing register.
He said: “When new planning officers come to our authority, what they can see is the council recognises certain areas have a distinct character that we as a council want to see preserved.
“This helps to condition the mindset of planning officers who have to consider any planning applications.
“There is a strong feeling, not just in Heath Common, that the district’s character needs to be preserved and recognised within the planning process.
“If we do have a system of local listing, can we expand it as one of the ways to help preserve the distinctive character of our district.”
Local listing is a way in which an authority can recognise the historical or architectural importance of a building, even if it has not be deemed important enough to warrant national recognition.
There are 31 buildings or groups of buildings currently on the district council’s local listing list, including the Roffey Institute, in Crawley Road, Highridge, in Kerves Lane, and the spire of the old St Mark’s Church, in Horsham town centre.
However, being locally listed does not mean a building is safe from demolition. It simply means that, should any planning applications be filed, the developer must at least consider the importance of the building.
In Crawley, for example, the old Embassy Cinema, which was built in 1938, was demolished to make way for the Morrisons development, despite being locally listed.
Mr Circus, cabinet member for waste, recycling and cleansing, said: “Given it’s the Year of Culture, any expansion of our local list to show that we value properties that might not meet the national criteria might actually be a very appropriate thing to do.”
Members were advised that if they knew of any buildings they thought were worthy of being listed, it could be done.
The Year of Culture will see a host of events throughout the year celebrating and raising the profile of culture and heritage within the Horsham district.
Already on the agenda is a celebration of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Horsham’s most famous writer, a schools dance festival, and the landscape artist of the year competition.
To find out more about the Year of Culture, visit www.hdculture2019.co.uk