Cheers ring out as parish councillors oppose homes

HOR 030310 Keep Southwater Green protest. photo by derek martin
HOR 030310 Keep Southwater Green protest. photo by derek martin

CHEERS echoed throughout Southwater Leisure Centre when parish councillors agreed to vote against Berkeley Homes’ plan to build 550 homes in the village.

The application was submitted days after leading councillors agreed to recommend that Horsham District Council (HDC) scraps its Draft Interim Statement at a cabinet meeting on July 21 - leaving it open for developers to submit plans on an ad-hoc basis.

However, a large number of Southwater residents flooded to the parish council meeting on Thursday September 8 to voice their anger over the ongoing wrangle.

Before the vote was cast, Polly Purton, of Keep Southwater Green, said: “Southwater is a pleasant place to live as it is now. It will not remain so if the proposed development goes ahead.

“Southwater has taken more than its share of development already over the last 20 years. The farmland to the west of the Worthing road, Great House Farm in particular, crucially supports the environment and it is a vital part of the amenity of the village.

“The plans show that 17 mature trees will be destroyed along with eight complete and 23 partial hedgerows - in total approximately 2,070 metres of a species rich and bio-diverse wildlife habitat.

“This development will destroy all of this forever. Consider healthcare issues, consider employment in the area. Nearly all the people who would buy houses in this area will work outside it.

“Consider public transport and the inevitable traffic congestion. There is no availability of train service. The station at Christ’s Hospital is down very small roads, and is without any bus links to Southwater. A slip road onto the A24 will make no difference to the overall problem.

“This development is against the wishes of the local community, against the current adopted core strategy, grossly damaging to the environment and amenities of the village and unsustainable.”

But Adrian Brown, of Berkeley Homes, fought back, saying: “Berkeley has submitted this application because, despite the district council’s decision to abandon the Interim Statement, the need for additional development in the district has not diminished.

“It is inevitable that concerns remain and it is our objective to continue to work with the local community to try to resolve as many of these as possible and provide assurance that the infrastructure required to support the development will be delivered. We suggest that this continued dialogue would best be achieved through the establishment of a liaison committee.

“We are committed to the delivery of this package of proposals and the creation of a new neighbourhood of the highest quality which compliments Southwater’s village character and adds to the proud sense of community.”

Mr Brown added that the company would ‘enter in to binding legal agreements’ to guarantee that the full package of infrastructure and community benefits would be delivered and not ‘watered down’.

Tony Bull, chairman of Southwater Parish Council, said: “In my view the position of Southwater Parish Council’s Planning Committee is made far worse in deciding this application by reason of HDC agreeing to abandon their interim statement and thus they find themselves in a situation where any future planning case which went to appeal would, in their words ‘be indefensible’ to oppose in the absence of any alternative planning strategy in place.

“Unfortunately, this is a direct consequence of favouring Option One, resulting from the HDC consultation held earlier this year.

“In my view and given the forgoing, if we were inclined to reject the application without proper planning grounds and, even if HDC adopted a similar stance, it would undoubtedly be allowed upon appeal.

“If this were to happen we would lose what little influence we would otherwise have in working with the developer in deciding the finer details of the scheme.

“On this basis we are faced in my opinion with having little alternative but to approve this application.”

However, despite the chairman’s words, five parish councillors rejected the plans against two who voted in favour.

Speaking of the result Vanessa Long, of Fletchers Road, said: “I’m much happier than I was at the last meeting. The fact that most of the council are behind us is fantastic - I hope this makes a difference at the final decision.”