Plans to build a two-storey block of eight flats in West Chiltington have been refused by Horsham District Council.
The application, for land in the garden of Rambledown House, on Common Hill, also included an extension for the existing building to allow a ninth flat to be built.
At a meeting of the planning committee, owner Shirley Benn said she already had permission to build a detached house in the garden but was ‘acutely aware that the parish desperately needs apartments for downsizers’.
She was supported by Robert Gustar, chairman of West Chiltington Parish Council’s planning committee, who said he was ‘totally mind-boggled’ by planning officers’ recommendation to refuse the application.
The parish had originally objected to the plans but backed down once a few changes had been made by the developers.
Mr Gustar said: “Here we have an application which has almost no effect on the character of the village and is inside the built up area.
“I fully understand that close neighbours may object to this application but the planning committee has to consider the best interests of the village as a whole.”
The planning committee heard concerns from some residents that the new building would be too large, cramped and would generate too much traffic. Some also felt that to add another flat to Rambledown – which is already divided into three apartments – would amount to over-development.
Most of the committee shared those views.
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater North) said she understood the need for smaller homes in the area but added: “We have a duty to get this right. I think it’s cramped, I think it’s over-development. I think we should permit some development here but I think this is a step too far.”
Mike Morgan (Ind, Henfield) agreed. He said: “It’s a question of balance. If a lesser number of units had come forward I would have supported it but I think this is over-development.”
The application was refused by six votes to one, with one abstention.
Because Mrs Benn is part of the team which selects Conservative candidates for the district and county council, ten of the committee did not take part in the decision-making, leaving the room while the application was considered.
Philip Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham & Ashington) told members of the public it would be ‘highly prejudicial’ for them to remain.