County Times review of the year: Highs and lows of 2014

JPCT 260314 Millais school teachers not on strike after the fire. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140326-150449001

JPCT 260314 Millais school teachers not on strike after the fire. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140326-150449001

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As we say farewell to 2014 and welcome the start of 2015, the County Times team looks at 12 major stories across the past year.

January 30: Driver escapes tree crushed car

JPCT 180414 S14170261x Horsham. Piazza Italia. Vintage Ferrari cars parade in Carfax -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140418-121605001

JPCT 180414 S14170261x Horsham. Piazza Italia. Vintage Ferrari cars parade in Carfax -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140418-121605001

Bad weather in January took an unexpectedly dangerous turn as a mini tornado hit the Horsham district on January 25. Kieran Malone had a lucky escape when a tree branch landed on his car near the Hop Oast Tip. Fortunately, he was able to crawl out of the car unharmed. Teenager Saralouise Puttick, 17, also had a near miss when a branch fell and knocked her down in her back garden. A larger branch which could have killed her fell just a few feet away.

March 6/February 27: Broadbridge Heath Quadrant plans unveiled

Horsham District Council announced plans to demolition of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre in 2011, much to users horror. After months of campaigning the council agreed on a multi-million plan to replace the existing centre with brand new facilities. Plans for the quadrant were unveiled in February 2014, included a new leisure facility, apartments, hotel, restaurant and retail units, and a medical centre, but now the council is mulling a U-turn on the future of the leisure centre.

March 6: Christian Mitchell deselected as council’s chairman-elect

Campaigners pictured in summer 2014 at the North Horsham A264 where the majority of housing is proposed  -photo by Steve Cobb S142404864x

Campaigners pictured in summer 2014 at the North Horsham A264 where the majority of housing is proposed -photo by Steve Cobb S142404864x

As the debate surrounding proposals to build new homes at North Horsham intensified, Christian Mitchell was deselected as Horsham District Council chairman-elect by his own party. Mr Mitchell said he had been effectively sacked for voicing his residents’ concerns over the plans for 2,500 homes north of the A264. He became the first signatory of the County Times Free Speech Charter and has commented in the paper on subsequent planning issues.

April 3rd/March 27: Fire at Millais School

A fire broke out at Millais School on March 20 and caused extensive damage to one of the school’s buildings. Firefighters equipped with breathing apparatus battled the blaze that ripped through part of a top floor. Nobody was hurt, and emergency services praised the response from students and staff. Teachers at the school decided not to take part in a national strike days after the fire to support pupils (see main picture).

April 24: Piazza Italia attracts huge crowds

Tour of Britain Horsham East Street SUS-140914-074736001

Tour of Britain Horsham East Street SUS-140914-074736001

On Easter Weekend Horsham was host to the Piazza Italia Festival for the eighth time. An estimated 110,000 people flooded the Carfax and lined the streets to admire iconic cars from around the world. Makes on show included Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Alfa Romeo. Local businesses also joined in with the motoring theme. A few days later, Horsham District Council announced an investment of £60,000 in the town centre to encourage similar scenes. Visitors to the town centre are pictured in the Carfax watching the cars go past.

May 8: Controversy over proposed North Horsham development

The controversial local plan which included 2,500 new homes north of Horsham was approved by Horsham District Council on Wednesday April 30. The housing plan also suggested 1,500 new homes be identified through the neighbourhood plan process as well as around 500 homes in Southwater. Concerns were raised by many about the transparency of the consultation process and the unknowns surrounding a possible second runway at Gatwick Airport. Pictured are campaigners at the greenfields under threat from housebuilding.

May 15: Wabi fire

Just weeks after the fire at Millais School, Wabi restaurant suffered a fire that caused about £500,000 worth of damage to the property on East Street.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. Although the owners were denied an insurance pay-out, support from Barclays and staff helped to set the restaurant to rights. Pictured are staff as Wabi successfully reopened just four months later in September.

June 19th: McDonald’s closes after 25 years

2014 saw the departure of McDonald’s from West Street after 25 years in Horsham. Developer Westrock’s plan to renovate Bishop Weald House into a new set of apartments and shops were approved by Horsham District Council as part of a £35million redevelopment of the town’s ‘West End’. Many were sad to see the restaurant go, with some even laying flowers in ‘mourning’. The former McDonald’s site is intended for a new Metro Bank.

July 10/July 17: Crash victim thanks anonymous angel

A woman was saved by a stranger who dragged her from the wreckage of her burning car. Beverley Rowley, 52, from Storrington, said she was ‘very lucky’ to be alive after her car hit a tree on Common Hill, West Chiltington on Friday July 4. Her Volkswagen Polo caught fire, but a man driving past stopped and pulled her to safety. Beverley thanked the anonymous ‘angel’ who came to her rescue.

August 14: Gatwick second runway dossier left on train

Whether or not a second runway should be built at Gatwick has been a topic of debate in 2014. The possible effects of expanding Gatwick along with existing concerns about flight path noise have been the subject of much debate. In August a dossier outlining plans to influence decision-makers over a second runway was left on a train. West Sussex County Council and Horsham District Council are due to formally consider the issue later this month.

September 18: Tour of Britain comes to Horsham

On Saturday September 13 thousands lined the streets of Horsham to watch the Tour of Britain cycling race come through the town. Horsham District Council leader Ray Dawe said there was a ‘carnival atmosphere’ and thanked local businesses and volunteer marshals for their help. Cyclists are pictured zooming down East Street.

September 25: Ashington brothers’ star turn in Downton Abbey

Two brothers from Ashington starred in Downton Abbey last year. Four-year olds Zac and Oliver Barker – who are triplets with their sister Megan – landed the role of Master George Crawley in the fifth series of the ITV drama. They were spotted by an agent who saw a photo of the boys in a magazine. Their mother, Clare, said she was ‘very proud’. The brothers appeared in the Christmas special.

October 16: Flash floods across district

Flash floods in early October caused chaos throughout the Horsham district. Parts of Twineham, Wineham and Shermanbury suffered heavy flooding, while in Horsham North Street and Guildford Road were among the worst affected areas. West Sussex County Council received £35million in government funding for flood defences over the next six years.

What was the most important Horsham district news story of 2014 for you? Comment below or email the newsdesk.