Storrington residents and businesses who fought plans to redevelop a business park say they hope their success will help protect other small employment sites in the South Downs National Park.
Storrington Downs Residents Association (SDRA) joined forces with the parish council and existing businesses on Gerston Farm Business Park in Greyfriars Lane to speak against proposals. Pulborough-based Whittington Homes had applied to demolish buildings on the site and replace them with six homes. The applciation was rejected by Horsham District Council and dismissed by a planning inspector who said it would damage the national park, and would result in the loss of an employment site that served local needs.
A previous plan for 14 homes on the site was withdrawn and another for eight homes was refused by Horsham District Council.
Frances Sedgwick of SDRA said: “Beside the importance of Gerston Business Park to the economic and social well-being of the local community, as a farmer and member of the South Downs Land Management Group as well as a neighbour of the site, my greatest concern was the detrimental impact of a housing development on the landscape and scenic beauty of the SDNP.
“The current single-storey buildings are not unacceptably prominent and are consistent with agricultural buildings characteristic of the rural area.
“A change to large imposing residential properties would have intensified the settlement character of the foothills landscape. I feel that the successful dismissal of this appeal sets a good precedent for the newly designated SDNP and I hope will protect other small employment sites in the National Park from redevelopment for residential use. A great success for the local area.”
Lack of similar affordable units for small businesses in Storrington was an issue raised by residents as they battled the development plans.
Ex-tenant David Coster from Roadmark Travel said he had been given notice to vacate the site prior to the appeal. “I was delighted to hear that the proposed development at Gerston Farm had been rejected. As a former tenant of one of the office premises at Gerston Business Park, it was satisfying to know that the efforts of the campaigners was not in vain.”
Marie-Helene Jacob of SDRA said: “The Inspector clearly recognised the importance of keeping open small employment sites such as Gerston, in light of their contribution to the local economy and the lack of comparable sites in the vicinity. This vindicates the efforts made over the years by the Parish Council and the businesses active in Gerston Park to oppose the development plans.”
Fellow member of the association Penny Richmond added: “There is already a number of new developments in Storrington and the refusal to permit the building of more houses outside the built up area of Storrington and inside the SDNP means that the rural setting - inside of which the small local businesses may continue - will remain intact, thus preserving the much-valued character and appearance of this part of the National Park.”
Chairman of Storrington Parish Council Anna Worthington-Leese said: “The parish council is very pelased that this site will not be developed for residential purposes and that we have been able to play a part in protecting the employment that it offers and also that the relatively newly-formed South Downs National Park has been able to exert some influence in this process. We will continue to resist all development that is outside the built-up areas of the village.”