‘Unreasonable behaviour’ to refuse plans for council’s former offices

HDC's former offices before they were sold for development
HDC's former offices before they were sold for development

Plans for seven flats underneath Horsham District Council’s former offices have been approved on appeal.

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 HDC’s Development Control North Committee last November on the grounds of poor living environment for future occupiers.

However this decision has been overturned by a planning inspector on appeal, with costs awarded against HDC.

Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West), vice chairman of the council, described being ‘not happy’ with the decision at a meeting earlier this week.

Planning inspector Johanna Ayres concluded the proposals, which include some exterior works to the buildings, should have been permitted and the appeal ‘has caused the appelant delay and unnecessary expense’. She added: “This constitutes unreasonable behaviour.”

In her report, she said: “In this case, the planning officers concluded that the proposal would not result in a significant loss of sunlight or daylight to the occupiers of the neighbouring property, or fail to provide adequate provision in the way of on-site parking for future occupiers.

“The council subsequently failed to provide any evidence as to what harm would be caused to the occupiers of the proposal with regards to insufficient levels of daylight and/or sunlight.

“The council’s evidence stated the contrary view to that stated in the officer report; however the council did not provide a professional assessment to rebut the appellant’s evidence, and failed to substantiate the reason for refusal.”

When councillors discussed the application last year, Mr Burgess asked colleagues 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.”

Similar plans were turned down by HDC a year earlier, with one councillor describing them as ‘dark and dingy vampire flats’.