Leisure centre skate park scheme refused

The site for the proposed skate park, next to Steyning Leisure Centre D14242242a
The site for the proposed skate park, next to Steyning Leisure Centre D14242242a

A CONTROVERSIAL skate park application has been turned down, with councillors labelling it ‘bizarre’ and ‘undeliverable’.

The plan was deemed ‘dangerous’ for children and like a ‘Lewis Caroll/Catch 22 situation’ by Horsham district councillors at Tuesday’s development control committee meeting.

But the applicant, Friends of Memorial Playing Field chairman Peter Comber, has pledged to appeal, saying the officer’s report made it plain there were no planning grounds for refusal.

Before the committee meeting commenced, a letter was circulated among councillors stating the planning officer’s report on the council’s Planning Portal website recommended refusal and claiming the Sussex Police and Highways Department’s reports were incomplete. However, this letter was not debated during the meeting.

Councillor Brian O’Connell told the committee there were a number of factors that could not be guaranteed, such as the use of toilets at the leisure centre.

Sheila Matthews said: “This must be one of the most bizzare planning applications.

“It’s quite dangerous. We have a skate park in an area which is very congested with access on to a busy road. The car park will become overly used.

“It needs to be where children can walk safely.”

Resident Mike Kelly spoke against the plans, saying he represented the majority in Steyning, who support an alternative skate park site on Memorial Playing Field.

He said: “Parents have expressed their opposition to a caged facility hidden behind the leisure centre, adjacent to a busy car park with access off the dangerous Horsham Road.”

He said the facility should be within the heart of the community, not on the edge of town.

There were no details of the finances, management or ownership of the skatepark, he pointed out, and added the applicants ‘know very well it will never be built there’.

Steyning Grammar School head teacher Nick Wergan raised concerns about health and safety and made it clear the school, which owns the site, would not allow it to be built.

He said the skate park would be ‘unsafe’ for children and ‘disrupt’ teachers.

“This application is totally opposed by the school,” he added. “It has no place in the school or curriculum. It is a serious risk to safeguarding our children. Any risk is unacceptable.”

He declined to add anything further outside the meeting, but did say: “Our complete opposition to this proposal has already been publicly documented.”

In support of the application, Steyning councillor George Cockman said it should be granted approval with a view to then reviewing the parish council’s application when it came to the committee.

Mr Cockman’s stance was not supported by other councillors, who collectively opposed the plan, predominantly based on its location, the cage fencing that will surround the facility and its close proximity to Steyning Grammar School.

The committee refused the planning application and agreed to delegate to officers to clarify the reasons for refusal.

The facility, planned for Steyning Leisure Centre’s car park, has been publicly backed by the Friends, who oppose Steyning Parish Council’s skate park application for Memorial Playing Field.

A statement issued by the Friends group said: “As the officer’s report made plain, there were no proper planning grounds for a refusal.

“In the circumstances, we will be appealing and are confident the planning inspector will reverse this decision.”

The group said the site offered great benefits and no disadvantages.

“A planning consent prejudices no one but would be the essential starting point for what could be a fantastic addition to all the other leisure facilities at this site. We call on all stakeholders to work with us on this if the current planning decision is reversed.”