Polo patron loses battle for Midhurst equestrian centre

Hannah Hurvenes-Clarke
Hannah Hurvenes-Clarke

An application for an equestrian centre in Midhurst for ‘top class’ international dressage competitors has been refused.

The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) planning committee today (September 10) rejected an application for a change of use of land at the Brackenwood estate on Telegraph Hill near Midhurst.

Hannah Hurvenes-Clarke and Nick Clarke at Brackenwood

Hannah Hurvenes-Clarke and Nick Clarke at Brackenwood

Hannah Hurvenes-Clarke, an international dressage competitor, proposed to use the site for the breeding and training of dressage horses as a private business, and to support her competition riding.

Officers recommended the committee refuse permission as Brackenwood was ‘in a remote and tranquil location which contributes to the prevailing historic landscape character that is sensitive to change’.

The committee rejected the application. Chairman Neville Harrison said: “Whether it’s top class riders wanting this approved or a small pony club, the rules are exactly the same.”

Ms Hurvenes-Clarke and her father Nick Clarke were unsuccessful in a High Court appeal last year.

Brackenwood

Brackenwood

Mr Clarke said: “We have tried to engage the planners since 2005. We have a permitted dressage arena but we have nowhere to put our horses.

“I regret in hindsight I should have pursued the planning application and I deeply regret that.

“I have tried to engage the planners in a sensible fashion. We have tried to appease and make this acceptable.

“I think the main area of contention is the barn - the only comments I have had is it’s too big.

“The implication and the impact of the noise and the tranquillity is miniscule at my facility compared to the housing estate 700 metres away.”

Objecting to the plans, chairman of Woolbeding with Redford Parish Council Roger Lovett told the committee his parish community had been most affected by the changes at Brackenwood over the last ten years.

“We have been shocked by the blatant disregard for the planning system throughout this development,” he said.

“The equestrian enterprise provides neither employment nor services to parish residents.

“Four retrospective applications relating to a polo facility have been refused and appeal through a costly public enquiry to a final refusal at the High Court.

“This application is a deliberate evasion of the planning process and should be refused.”

Vice-chairman of the parish council Adrian Hearle added: “Put simply, this application feels like it treats the high court decision in contempt.

“As the husband of a double Olympian, I am usually sympathetic to supporting high level sports. That is no excuse to ride roughshod over planning to achieve equestrian success.

“Similar sympathies as well as a potential loss of local business were stated in the hundreds of website-generated comments to support the application.

“These were all the hallmarks of an orchestrated campaign.”

Malcolm Kilbey is the director of Farm and Stables Supplies, based in Midhurst. Speaking in support of the plans, he said: “We were promised when the South Downs National Park was instigated there would be no impact, only enhancement of the are - but in fact that is proving not to be the case.”

The committee agreed the development at the former King Edward VII hospital in Midhurst had ‘compromised’ the tranquillity of the surrounding landscape, with member Tom Jones claiming the level of building work had ‘urbanised’ the area.

Mr Jones was the only member of the committee who supported the application.

“I believe this is something we desperately need - it will benefit not just one individual but a number of top notch dressage riders we desperately need in this country,” he said.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage at www.midhurstandpetworth.co.uk/

2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MidhurstandPetworthObserver

3) Follow us on Twitter @mid_pet_obs

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

The Midhurst and Petworth Observer - always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.