Outline plans to build up to 300 homes on the former Novartis site in Horsham have been approved.
Plans for the Parsonage Road site – known as the Horsham Enterprise Park – were deferred by Horsham District Council in September after more information was called for regarding road safety, parking and the views of Sussex Police.
Some members had been concerned when they were told that independent highways consultant Peter Brett Associates had not ‘critically looked’ at road safety audits.
A report to a meeting of the full council on Wednesday (October 16), updated the situation, stating that the consultant felt it was ‘unlikely that the development would cause an unacceptable impact on highway safety’.
It was not a view shared by a number of public speakers, including the Wimblehurst Road Residents’ Association.
Chairman Jane Apostolou agreed the site should be developed but stressed that it should be done appropriately, adding that the quality of life for residents ‘is still the most important thing’.
Several speakers suggested applicant West Sussex County Council should withdraw the plans and look at them again.
When pharmaceutical giant Novartis left town in 2014, there were big plans to turn the whole site into a university campus then a ‘world renowned’ science park.
Those plans fell through and the outline application for up to 300 homes and 25,000sqm of employment space was drawn up.
Claire Vickers, cabinet member for planning, said she was disappointed that only the ‘minimum’ required highway infrastructure work had been included but felt the benefits of the scheme would outweigh the harm.
She added: “This town centre of ours really needs employment.”
After the meeting Louise Goldsmith, outgoing county council leader, said: “To get to this stage has taken more than two years of hard work to develop a plan for the former Novartis site which brings maximum benefit to Horsham while also ensuring our proposals are financially viable.
“Our aim is for Horsham Enterprise Park to support economic growth by providing new commercial space for businesses and so bringing more than 1,500 local jobs into the area. The residential element, which is needed to make our plans viable, will bring a good mix of affordable housing for Horsham and community facilities for all to enjoy.
“Having passed through the important stage of outline planning permission, we can now develop these proposals more roundly and focus on how we will deliver this vision to the people of Horsham and wider.”
A number of councillors pointed out that, if they chose to refuse the application, they ran the risk that the county council would sell the land to a developer who would be unlikely to include so much employment space but very likely to cram in many more houses.