Plans for ‘poky’ flats under former council offices in Horsham have been compared to ‘putting children up chimneys again’ by one councillor.
Developers already have permission to convert the vacant Park North and North Point buildings in North Street into 65 apartments under permitted development rights.
But a further application for infill extensions at ground floor level to create another four flats and extend three was rejected by Horsham District Council’s Development Control North Committee on Tuesday November 1 on the grounds of poor living environment for future occupiers.
Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) asked fellow councillors if they wanted residents to live in ‘clandestine stigmian darkness’.
He added: “It’s equivalent to putting children up chimneys again. I think it’s a very retrograde step.”
Officers pointed out that while the new flats would ‘not have the best outlook’ they would be market homes and people moving into them would be doing so ‘of their own free will’.
But Mr Burgess explained how he lived in a basement on a naval base and described it as ‘horrendous’.
He added: “People are desperate for houses. They will buy anything if it’s a good price. That does not mean we have to approve it.”
The move to reject the application was put forward by David Skipp (LDem, Horsham Park) who argued that ‘virtually nothing’ had changed since the committee refused a similar plan by developers last year.
However the agent for the scheme explained that they had worked with officers to produce more information to justify the application rather than appealing to the planning inspector, including lighting and acoustic surveys.
Matthew French (Con, Broadbridge Heath) agreed with the applicant and warned that by refusing the scheme they might make the whole development unviable. He explained: “Basically if people do not want to live here they will not buy the properties.”
Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East) said: “They are going to be quite poky but there will be some people who will want to live in them.”
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), cabinet member for planning and development, added: “This is a very good location for people who want to get on the housing ladder.”
John Chidlow (Con, Southwater) added: “I think we should look to the economy and it would be good if it was stronger and people could afford a higher standard of accommodation, but we are where we are.”
However Toni Bradnum (Con, Nuthurst) disagreed, arguing that this scheme ‘was going back to the 1980s where they built tiny units which are really not suitable for people to live in’.
Trudie Mitchell, chair of Horsham Denne Neighbourhood Council, described plans as ‘almost identical’ to those previously refused by HDC, questioned the paper based day and sunlight study, and suggested there had been little attempt to turn functional office space into desirable apartments.
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