Current issues 6

A monstrous carbuncle

When it was announced that Piries Place car park was to be replaced Ray Dawe, Leader of Horsham Council, was quoted by the West Sussex County Times as saying any redevelopment needed to “fit into the townscape of Piries Place”.  What has emerged manifestly fails the test he set. 

The Planning Committee has approved a huge five storey monstrosity similar to that illustrated in the January Newsletter. It is simply too massive for the location and will dominate Horsham's venerable centre. Although partially redeemed by the late addition of a ‘green wall’, we do not believe the Council in years to come will tolerate maintenance costs of up to £30,000 a year. After all, the Shelley fountain was scrapped because of maintenance costs far lower than this.

HDC’s normal excuse for waving through sub standard design is that the councillors dare not risk losing some expensive legal challenge. But this is not a proposal from some outside developer - this is our own council’s plan to redevelop its own car park. It could do far better than this, and Horsham deserves better.

What account was taken of national planning policy which says permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area? One cannot escape the conclusion that building the largest cash cow possible trumped all other considerations.

This case also highlights the potential for a perceived lack of transparency that can arise when a council is both developer and planning authority. There is a strong argument for a change in the law to transfer the planning responsibility for such applications to another authority such as the county council.