An application seeking consent for a ‘lean-to’ side extension next to a barn which itself was built without permission would have been refused, councillors have advised the planning inspectorate.
The retrospective application for the building at Windacres Farm, in Rudgwick, was submitted to Horsham District Council by Conservative ward member John Bailey.
Mr Bailey lodged an appeal with the inspectorate in October on the grounds that the council had failed to make a decision about the application within the allotted time frame.
As such, members of the planning committee could no longer approve or refuse the application but had to advise the inspectorate what their decision would have been had no appeal been lodged.
During a meeting on Tuesday, some members appeared to have difficulty understanding why they needed to be involved at all.
Leonard Crosbie (Lib Dem, Trafalgar) said: “I would have assumed that as the appeal process is under way, the planning inspectorate would ask the officers for their views, the officers would have given their views, as they would with many other planning appeals.
“I do not understand why we are being asked as a committee to endorse or otherwise this application now.”
It was explained that the officers could not fight the appeal without guidance as to which way they should go. This, coupled with the fact that the applicant was a serving councillor, meant the issue had to be put before the committee.
Speaking against the plan, Rudgwick resident John Newell asked: “Why would anyone make an application to extend a building which itself has not been approved?”
Mr Bailey did not attend the meeting but his application received support from some members.
Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) said the extension was ‘a necessary part of the future of this farm’, while Toni Bradnum (Con, Nuthurst) said she couldn’t ‘see what the problem is’.
It was at this point that vice-chairman Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper & Colgate) proposed that the meeting went into closed session – excluding members of the press and public – ‘to clarify a few things’.
When the meeting was opened to the public again ten minutes later, members agreed to inform the planning inspectorate that they would have refused the application.
When asked why the public and press had been excluded, a council spokesman said: “The press and public were excluded during part of the considerations when confidential information relating to the applicant was discussed, as the applicant has a right to respect for private and family life.”
An appeal against that decision has also been lodged with the planning inspectorate.