‘Inappropriate’ plans for flats behind a historic Crawley hotel have been opposed by borough councillors.
But, with no decision having been reached within the required 13 weeks, the applicant, the Gatwick George Hotel Ltd, appealed to the Planning Inspectorate to intervene.
The matter was raised at a meeting of the planning committee at Crawley Town Hall on Tuesday (September 25), where members were asked to agree that, if the application had remained with the council, it would have been refused anyway.
Eight reasons for refusal were put before the committee, including the harm the development would cause to the Grade II listed 10 Ifield Road and the High Street Conservation Area, the level of noise future occupants would have to endure and the lack of an agreement about affordable housing levels.
There was also concern that some of the windows in neighbouring Shaw House, which is being converted into flats, would face out on to a four-storey brick wall.
Lynda Wyer, speaking for RDJW Architects Limited, expressed ‘disappointment and frustration’ with the situation.
She told members that architects had spent a year working with a senior planning officer and urban designer to ‘reconsider, reduce, refine, evolve and amend’ the plans before filing the application.
But a new case officer, with a ‘very different view’ of the scheme, took over and raised more concerns, further dragging out the process.
Ms Wyer described the reasons for refusing the application as ‘a whole series of generalisations’ and said the decision to appeal stemmed from ‘frustration’ at having to deal with the council who ‘failed to act reasonably’.
She added: “We recognise that pre-application advice is not binding, but we respectfully suggest that, in this case, the 12 months that were spent engaging with the council prior to the submission of the application was not given any weight as a material consideration and in fact appears to have simply been dismissed.”
Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield) said the council had a ‘good record’ when it came to working with agents and applicants before applications were submitted.
While acknowledging that it ‘hasn’t worked tremendously well here’, he asked if any of the advice given had been adhered to, describing the development as ‘massively inappropriate’.
Mr Smith said he had a lot of sympathy for the planning officers, adding: “It just looks like it hasn’t really been thought through properly.”
Committee members agreed they would have refused the application. The decision will be included in the council’s report to the Planning Inspectorate, which has to be filed by September 28.
The hearing has been scheduled for November 20/21.