Plans for church centre in Horsham’s Causeway spark concerns over possible Horsham pre-school move

The idea of a pre-school opening in a quiet Horsham street dominated a planning discussion – even though it wasn’t part of the application in question.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 3:53 pm

The parochial church council of St Mary’s Church asked the district council for permission to make changes to the entrance and foyer of the Barn Church Centre, in The Causeway.

The improvements were largely to make the centre and its facilities more accessible to people with mobility issues.

While these changes were welcomed and seen as long overdue, a number of speakers to a meeting of the planning committee were concerned the church was trying to house a pre-school on the site without applying for the required permission.

One called the application a ‘Trojan Horse’ and another said it was ‘disguise’.

But the Rev Lisa Barnett made it clear that the church would follow the rules when it came to any change of use.

Rev Barnett told the meeting that the pre-school, which was set up 17 years ago, is currently based in the guide hut on Denne Road and the church would like to move it in the future.

She added: “We recognise that there is some local concern about this possibility and the question of whether this would constitute a change of use or not, and we are committed to following due process in relation to that issue in the weeks ahead.”

When further comments were made, chairman Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East) said: “I think if we can’t trust the word of the clergy then where are we on this?”

But the pre-school was not what this application was about.

The only issue the committee was asked to decide on was the improvements to the building.

They included:

The reconfiguration and replacement of the entrance doors to include mechanically assisted doors, access doors which open outwards, and allowing sufficient space at the top of the access ramp to open the doors before entering

Changes to the layout of the access ramp

Reconfiguration of the foyer area

Installation of two lavatories, a cleaner’s cupboard and a mobility access lavatory with baby change facilities.

The installation of a servery unit within the chapel

The installation of a new sink with boiling water tap in the parish office.

Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West): “There may well be a change of use and, if so, that will come to a future planning meeting and we can discuss some of the things [then].

“But right now, we’ve got a very vibrant church in the centre of Horsham which deals with a whole variety of people in a very interesting and expanding way and their church hall needs to be brought up to a modern standard.”

Martin Boffey (Lib Dem, Trafalgar) agreed, adding that it would be ‘perverse’ to prevent the improvements ‘purely out of fear of what might happen in the future’.

The application was approved unanimously.

To view the application, log on to public-access.horsham.gov.uk and search for DC/21/0585.