Residents have launched a campaign to protect an important green space near their homes in central Horsham.
The future of New Street Gardens has come under scrutiny after proposals were revealed in the Horsham Town Centre Vision to replace the popular site with an access road to a possible new housing development.
The vision outlined a suggestion to redevelop the RSA car park behind the gardens to create 20 new homes and a new multi-storey car park.
Campaigners launched a petition online to save the gardens which gained almost 2,500 signatures in just under a week.
Local resident Julie Cyrus was outraged by the loss of the green space which she said was used by many families in the area.
She said: “It’s the only green space for this group of houses. We all have small gardens but not enough room for the kids to play football or anything like that.
“My children are small but they overheard us the last couple of days talking about it and they are really upset.
“I think both grown ups and little ones alike will miss it.”
The gardens are owned by Horsham District Council.
In the Horsham Vision proposals, created by the council, it states the RSA site may be suitable for a part residential development with the creation of a multi-storey car park to replace the parking space which will be lost.
Access is currently gained to the site via the south, through Victoria Street, but the proposal says any residential development ‘would not be practicable without separate access’.
David Scott, who lives in the area, didn’t see the need to have access through New Street.
He said: “I am not directly opposed to new housing, we need housing. I can’t see why they can’t get access in through the current RSA access site.”
He added developers should also look at getting access from the north of the site.
The gardens were neglected for many years but in 2005 they were restored to a beautiful patch of public land and have been maintained by volunteer group Friends of New Street Gardens ever since.
Lots of community events are held in the gardens every year and it has become a community hub for those living in the area as well as a popular place for picnics.
Julie said: “The issue of getting rid of the garden is it’s used a huge amount by the community.
‘‘For our little community we look at that as our patch,’’ she explained.
“On Halloween they were handing out sweets there. They always do Christmas carols in the garden which are amazing and they do an Easter Egg hunt.”
However, the loss of the green space is not campaigners’ only concern.
Protesters have expressed their upset over the access road joining the already overcrowded New Street and said the increase in traffic would make the road even more dangerous.
Julie said: “The traffic is really bad. A lot of people use it as a cut through from North Horsham to South Horsham and because cars are parked up either side it’s like a chicane.”
Issues were also raised about the increase in cars caused by both the proposed development and a further scheme for more than 60 homes in the area approved in March.
Plans for 65 new homes to be built in Winterton Court, off New Street, were given the go-ahead by the planning inspector in March following an appeal by developer Saxon Weald.
David said the increase of cars from both developments would contribute to the traffic problems.
Campaigner Amélie Roland-Gosselin agreed.
She said: “There are no traffic calming measures, nothing to stop the traffic coming through.
“I think it’s less about the housing and more about the impact on the streets here and a street that is already overcrowded.”
She also raised concerns about the loss of green space.
She said the council’s planning policy outlined it would ‘retain, enlarge or enhance the existing formal and informal green spaces within the town’.
She added: “Once a green is lost it’s lost forever. Once it’s gone it’s gone and they need to do something to preserve these green areas because they are so important.”
Horsham District Council said this week that it wished to reassure residents that there are no plans to remove New Street Gardens.
A council spokesman said: ‘‘The council’s Town Centre Vision statement for the future of Horsham sets out some options and ideas about how the Royal Sun Alliance (RSA) and BR Station car park sites could be developed, but no plans have been approved to remove New Street Gardens and the concerns of local residents are understood.’’
In a detailed response, the council highlighted the following: ‘‘Paragraphs 6.61 to 6.66 of the Vision Statement consider possible options that could be further explored in relation to the RSA and BR Station car parks. It is only noted at paragraph 6.62 that development of the RSA site to provide both additional parking and housing would require the provision of additional access via New Street Garden.
‘‘Paragraph 6.63, alternatively, explores increasing car parking alone with no impact on New Street Gardens.
‘‘Paragraph 6.66 explores the option of combining both car parks and states that if considered together additional access may not have to be relied on. The whole section looks at possible options and constraints only.
‘‘The Vision’s Delivery Schedule at section 9.5 proposes: ‘Horsham Station/Royal Sun Alliance car parks - Explore options and develop schemes to increase parking capacity and potential for additional residential provision and explore options for public use of car park’.
‘‘The council will work with landowners to assess future potential for additional parking and/or residential development and the public would be fully consulted on any proposals, should they come forward.
‘‘It should be noted that the two sites are constrained and any proposed development will need to be carefully assessed in relation to any impacts on neighbouring properties, open space and the local road network.’’
The proposals are set to be considered by Cabinet members at a council meeting next week.
To sign the petition visit www.change.org/p/horsham-district-council-save-new-street-gardens-horsham