Owner of the derelict cement works in Upper Beeding has said it does not want ‘green fields’ or a ‘butterfly sanctuary’ - despite parish council’s hopes for its own ‘Eden Project’ on the site.
Upper Beeding Parish Council has said it would like to see the Shoreham Cement Works developed in a similar way to the futuristic botanical gardens, which were created on a similar site in Cornwall.
But owners of the derelict building, Hargreaves, told the County Times this week that it has not come to an agreement with the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).
Hargreaves development surveyor, James Belbin, said: “Some references in the media weren’t entirely true.
“We can’t agree with the SDNPA about what the proposed development will be. They want nice green fields and we don’t want a development unless it’s commercially feasible for us and that there’s some housing developments.”
“The site currently has a B2 General Industrial use, which allows businesses to use the site within designated hours.
“We have tenants on the West of the site and we get a good return.
“We could sit on it for the next 20 years and not develop, but we want to work with the parish council and everyone to develop a worthwhile site.”
Proposals are being considered as part of Upper Beeding Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan and an open day is planned in August to give people the chance to find out more.
The council is in discussions with owners, the Hargreaves Group, to open up the old cement works, on the A283 north of Shoreham, on a Saturday in August, with bus trips from Upper Beeding.
Parish councillor Sean Teatum explained: “Obviously its not our decision and we will have to get agreement from Hargreaves but we have discussed the idea at a lower level with them and are in the process of meeting with them to discuss it further.
“We would arrange a bus trip and guided tour. The aim is to interest mainly people from Upper Beeding and Small Dole and have a captive audience to update them on our Neighbourhood Plan, get some feedback and ideas as to what they would like in the parish, and particular the cement works, and help us get some fresh ideas to move the site forward.
“One of the things we want to do is maintain the local businesses that hire local people and develop a community centre. We don’t want to have a big housing development there.”
Mr Belbin from Hargreaves added: “It’s a bit of a blight on the landscape and we want to develop it but we are looking at tens of millions of pounds.
“We’re willing to put in nice walkways and grass land, but we don’t want a butterfly sanctuary.”
The South Downs National Park Authority is also involved in the talks and it has indicated that it sees the future of the site as a visitor centre for the national park.
Parish council chairman Simon Birnsting said: “The parish council would like to consider more ambitious plans that would offer more than just a few jobs in the hospitality sector.
“The Eden Project was made on a similar site, could we do something similar?”
The neighbourhood plan was the main topic at the annual parish meeting in April, the best attended for years, with speakers from Horsham District Council and South Downs National Park.