Storrington nursery owner wants permission for a house on-site to deter thieves

The last breeder of dahlias in Britain has asked for permission to build a house at his nursery to help deter thieves.

Friday, 24th January 2020, 3:49 pm
Ryecroft Dahlias, in Storrington. Picture: Horsham District Council planning portal

Philip Godsmark, of Ryecroft Nursery, in Storrington, applied to Horsham District Council to build a three-bedroom, chalet-style house, which would allow him to live at the site.

Members of the planning committee south were told the nursery had been targeted by thieves in the past, with equipment and new varieties of dahlia tubers among the things stolen.

While officers felt the application should be refused, saying there was no functional evidence the house was needed or that the business was viable, the committee was not so sure.

Nigel Jupp (Con, Billingshurst) said the council should ‘celebrate and encourage’ the business, while former farmer Kate Rowbottom (Con, Billingshurst) added: “I think it needs an injection of good luck, good will and good everything, and I think we ought to grant it.”

There was also plenty of support from the public.

Speaking in favour of the plan, Robert Schiller said Mr Godsmark was ‘renowned through the world for what he does’.

He added: “One of the reasons the business hasn’t been allowed to expand is simply because when your stock is stolen, when items and machinery have been stolen, you have little incentive to carry on.”

Good will, though, is not a planning issue and councillors were keen to give Mr Godsmark every opportunity to provide all the information needed to prove to the officers that his business was viable.

Several suggested giving temporary permission to see how things panned out – but were told that was not what was being considered.

In the end, council leader Ray Dawe came up with a solution.

He said: “I think we’re in a dilemma here. We want to support a business but we don’t have the robust evidence enough to go for this particular application.

“If more robust evidence can be produced, then I think it’s perfectly reasonable for us to defer it and give an opportunity for this applicant to come forward again with that information, then we can make a further decision when we’ve got that.”

Committee members agreed and the application was deferred.