30 years ago


From the West Sussex County Times of Friday, March 15, 1985.

A threat to the old railway station building in Southwater has put the villagers up in arms and spurred fresh demands for a community centre.

A “leak” that West Sussex County Council intends to demolish the building and fears that the four acre site may be sold for commercial use, has worried Southwater ward members.

The site, property of the county council, is designated for community and commercial use on the Horsham district plan, but a sale for commercial use only would bring in a higher sum for the council, ward chairman Tony Lardner said.

He told a recent ward meeting: “We must be sure it is retained for community use. We must not let the county council off the hook.

“The county may feel we do not need the station site if we get other land in the village. But it is not only a community centre we need.

“The station site could be used for an old people’s home or an improved youth club. We also need a library and more toddlers clubs and we want to retain the building itself.

“There is precious little left of the old village and this was once a focal point.” He said negotiations now under way to supply nine acres of land to the village just east of the station site should not affect the fate of the station building.

Negotiations between Horsham District Council and the owners of the Castle Wood site, the Piper Trust and Redland Group, are expected to be completed by the end of the month.

If land is made available from the building of 600 houses on the site, the village hopes to build a community centre with playing fields and a bowling green.

The St Francis Hospital at Haywards Heath, which opened as the Brighton lunatic asylum in 1859, is to close by the year 2000.

The announcement came from Mid Downs district medical officer Dr Ronald Wrighton at an authority meeting.

He was presenting a report on the mental health service which identified “major shortfalls” in services for long stay patients, mainly at St Francis.

Dr Wrighton said: “There is a general feeling that St Francis should be run down and closed. It probably would not be possible to complete that within ten years but by the end of the century we should be able to provide all the facilities required for the mentally ill in facilities other than St Francis.”

Authority chairman, Martyn Long, stressed: “There is no proposal to close it next week, it is a long term strategy. This is closure and replacement with better facilities – I hope everybody would support that view. We are open about what we are trying to do and we hope to get public support.”

The authority would continue with its philosophy of community care as seen in the intention to close Forest Hospital, Horsham, for the mentally handicapped, and replace it with smaller homes.

As St Francis was gradually closed, money and patients would be transferred to community facilities, says the authority.

Punk style squatters are squaring up to property developers in a fight over their “home”.

The dozen “Mohicans” say they will defy the bulldozers which could soon arrive to demolish Craven Lodge in North Parade, Horsham.

Developers, Charta Homes of Reigate, have applied for planning permission to demolish the former nurses’ home and build 17 flats for the elderly along with a warden’s flat.

Managing director David Drew said he hoped Horsham District Council would grant the permission at their meeting enabling him to clear the squatters and start work.

He said the Mohicans were a nuisance and he could not understand why they wanted to live in the appalling conditions at the near derelict lodge.

Mr Drew said he had canvassed nearby residents and they were in favour of his plans and wanted the Mohicans out but were afraid to complain in case they took reprisals.

They survive on £34 a fortnight dole money and cook over open fires at Craven Lodge. The house has no facilities or water but there is a tap in the garage.

A floating population of between ten and 15 Mohicans live at Craven Lodge along with two dogs. “It is our choice to live like this. It’s freedom.” said one.

Chief Insp John Page said police had not received complaints. It was up to the owners of the premises to get a court order for their eviction.