Plans for 45 flats at an ‘eyesore’ site where a block of flats were gutted by a blaze back in 2009 were approved this week.
The three-storey structure at Horsham Gates on the corner of North Street and Foundry Lane was gutted by a fire in October 2009 and was later demolished.
An application for two blocks of flats was approved by Horsham District Council’s Development Control North Committee on Tuesday night.
The same developer already has permission and has already started work to convert the other two remaining office blocks, Gates 2 and 3, into a total of 85 residential units.
One of the new blocks, for 30 units, will be on the former Gate 1 site, which is now being operated as a commercial car park. The second, for 15 flats, will be an extension to the Gates 3 building.
Roy Cornell (Con, Roffey South) said: “It’s been a terrible eyesore for the last few years or so and I agree with the officers’ recommendation [to grant planning permission].”
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) added: “I would absolutely endorse the recommendation here, I think it’s a prominent entrance to Horsham and it will be a huge improvement.”
However members did raise the fact that just 18 per cent of affordable units were being provided across the two new buildings, totalling eight flats, which was short of their 40 per cent target.
Planning officers explained that although the final total was a ‘shame’, the scheme had been viability tested.
The council had also secured an extra two affordable flats after negotiating with the developers, who had initially proposed just six.
Mr Cornell said he hoped the committee would understand this and ‘saw no reason for refusing this’.
Although he supported approving the application John Chidlow (Con, Southwater) ‘resented these unsupported expert opinions’, and felt they should be able to at least see a redacted summary of viability appraisals, giving councillors the chance to make up their own minds on affordable housing.
This idea was endorsed by Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar) and Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West), who argued they needed to get a ‘grip’ on the situation unless they wanted to fall behind on the amount of affordable housing they were delivering.
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