New neighbourhood centre a ‘bum deal’ for village

New Broadbridge Heath neighbourhood centre
New Broadbridge Heath neighbourhood centre

A new neighbourhood centre due to be built in Broadbridge Heath has been labelled a ‘bum deal’ for the village.

Countryside Property’s application includes 24 flats, a new nursery, retail store, flexible commercial units, a new parish office, community square and parking spaces.

The scheme, planned south of the old Broadbridge Heath bypass, which will be downgraded as part of the application, was approved by Horsham District Council’s Planning Committee North on Tuesday (July 4).

However local member Matthew French (Con, Broadbridge Heath) opposed the application.

He said: “In principle I’m very much in favour of this application as it does give much needed resources to the community of Broadbridge Heath.

‘‘However just like the other infrastructure promises, the surgery, the school and the football pitches, there is a comprise here to the detriment of the people of Broadbridge Heath.

“Another bum deal.”

He thought it was ‘not appropriate’ to approve flats above retail units, raised concerns about the three-storey height of the building, and suggested the number of parking spaces was inadequate.

Geoff Clark, speaking on behalf of Broadbridge Heath Parish Council, raised many of the same points including parking.

He suggested the application was as ‘long way from what was originally proposed’ with the addition of residential properties, calling the new main building a ‘potential eyesore’.

Mr Clark added: “It’s not a pretty building and if I lived next to that I would not want to look out at that.”

However Simon Cocks, development manager for Countryside, called the scheme the ‘final piece in the jigsaw’ of the Wickhurst Green development, ‘bringing the two parts of the village together’.

He argued the flats contributed smaller units to the larger housing scheme and would bring life into the area when the commercial uses were closed in the evenings.

The developer was already in discussion with an anchor retail store and a nursery operator.

Construction work is due to start in January 2018 with the project estimated to take 18 months to complete.

The downgrading of the bypass involves severing the road fronting the neighbourhood centre with the eastern and western arms diverting into the estate either side of the new building.

The works include a bus link through the severed section with pedestrian links north towards Broadbridge Heath.

The 24 flats would be built at first and second floor level above the retail units, with five one-bedroom and 19 two-bedroom units.

Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham) suggested it was ‘not the most beautiful development’, while Tony Hogben (Con, Denne) thought the main building was ‘out of character’ with the rest of Wickhurst Green.

But officers explained how the materials are controlled by condition and the buildings were designed to be ‘slightly more distinctive from the rest of the area’.

Chris Lyons, director for planning, economic development, and property, explained that advice from Government suggested flats above retail units was a good use of development land.

He added: “I think the scheme before you is a good scheme.”

Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), cabinet member for planning and development, added: “This neighbourhood has waited for a long time to get their community centre and I welcome this opportunity for it to come forward at last.”

The application was approved by eight votes to three with one abstention.

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