By Rich Hook
The future of a contentious housing scheme in the West Sussex village of Thakeham will be decided by Horsham District Council next Tuesday (April 19).
Abingworth Developments plan to reduce its Sussex Mushrooms operation at Cheesewood Nursery to make room for several new buildings including a village hall, doctor’s surgery, sports pitches, and 146 new homes.
But growing local opposition to the plans has forced Horsham Council to call an emergency two-hour meeting to discuss whether to approve the development.
Jean Locker, leader of Thakeham Village Action (TVA) – a campaign group against the proposal, said: “These proposals are outrageous and should not be permitted.
“Not only is the application a significant departure from accepted planning policies but the stated benefits to the community are questionable at best.”
The application breaks planning laws regarding large-scale housing developments in rural areas, but Horsham Council believes that the 480 farm jobs created by the scheme justifies an exceptional circumstance.
Tim Bryant, director of Abingworth Developments, said that the re-developments are a necessary step to secure the economic future of the area
He said: “Doing nothing at Sussex Mushrooms has never been an option because of its significance as a local employer.
“This proposal is a win-win situation, enabling operational improvements whilst dealing with the odour problems and delivering significant community benefits.”
The Council has received 218 letters in support of the plans and 187 against, yet TVA argue that most of the support comes from people outside of the area.
Mr Locker added: “The Communique survey [conducted by Abingworth’s PR firm] only extended to parishioners attending Abingworth’s exhibition, therefore Thakeham Parish Council’s questionnaire should be taken as a true gauge of the community views and this showed 53 per cent disagreed with the proposal in its current form.”
Having considered the proposals since June 2010, the council has recommended the demolition of the disused mushroom-growing sheds to make way for 167 acres of new houses and community facilities.
The development control committee will make a final decision after 1pm on Tuesday at Horsham council offices.