Regional distribution centre plans likened to ‘huge lighthouse’ at Hickstead refused by council

Aerial artists' impression of proposed  Pets Corner HQ at Hickstead (photo submitted). SUS-151119-150126001
Aerial artists' impression of proposed Pets Corner HQ at Hickstead (photo submitted). SUS-151119-150126001

Plans for a regional distribution centre at Hickstead that would create a ‘huge lighthouse seen for miles’ were refused by the council today (Thursday November 26).

The development, on land to the east of the A23, has been put forward as a way of providing a new home for pet supply retailer Pets Corner, currently based in Crawley, and new office space for other companies looking to relocate.

But Mid Sussex District Council planning officers described it as a ‘speculative application’ and they had spoken to Pets Corner who had said the proposed buildings were ‘not the type of facility they were looking for’.

The council’s District Planning Committee unanimously rejected the planning application on the grounds of harm to an area of countryside and the impact on nearby residential properties.

Edward Matthews (Con, Copthorne and Worth) said: “In landscape terms I think it’s the worst possible site of any development I have ever seen. It would be a huge lighthouse at the top there seen for miles.

“It’s in the wrong place.”

Annie Hirst, chair of Twineham Parish Council, argued that the development would have a detrimental impact on the character of the area and would have a ‘severe’ impact on the highways network, especially the A2300.

A regional distribution centre was not in the parish’s neighbourhood plan and was not considered sustainable development, she added.

But Andrew Ransome, of Plainview Planning, described it as an ‘opportunity to deliver an exciting commercial project’ that would provide ‘extraordinary’ economic benefits.

Phillip Coote (Con, Crawley Down and Turners Hill) disagreed with the word ‘exciting’ to describe the development, and instead called it a ‘60-foot high crinkly shed visible from about ten miles away’.

Although West Sussex County Council as highways authority had raised no objection Mr Coote described the roads in the vicinity as ‘impossible’.

Meanwhile Peter Martin (Con, Hassocks) said the meeting had provided him with the ‘best entertainment I have had this year’, and added: “It’s in the wrong place, it’s the wrong building, and it’s the wrong time.”

He also described the A272-A23 junction as ‘bad at the best of times’, and felt that by adding a new regional distribution centre they would be ‘asking for trouble’.

Officers explained that the land was earmarked as a new home for the relocated agricultural market in the early 1990s, which was moved when Sainsbury’s came to Haywards Heath.

While the new access north of the service station was completed the market never relocated there.

They said that although it was an outline application, the maximum building height could be 18 metres high and the proposed structures would be ‘very sizeable and bulky’.

Several councillors suggested there were other more suitable sites allocated for employment space in Mid Sussex.

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