DC/18/2594 - Abingworth Nurseries, Storrington Road, Thakeham
Applicant: Abingworth Developments Ltd
The Head of Development reported that this application sought permission for external and internal alterations to a building, which is currently a village shop with one 2-bedroom flat above, to include a village shop, ancillary café facilities and a veterinary practice on the ground floor, and two flats with separate accesses on the upper floor. Members were advised that the opening hours of the veterinary practice as stated in paragraph 6.23 of the report should read 08.00 – 17.00 hours (not 18.00 hours).
The application site was located in Thakeham, east of High Bar Lane and northeast of Abingworth Hall Hotel, and was part of the Abingworth development site for 159 dwellings with community facilities granted under DC/10/1314 and amended through a number of minor material amendments.
The Parish Council raised no objection to the application. There had been 101 representations objecting to the application, as printed in the report. Members were advised that four additional letters had been received objecting to the application on the grounds of lack of evidence and robust marketing to justify the loss of the larger retail unit, the lack of a need for the veterinary surgery, the amenity impact of the proposal, unsustainability, breach of covenants and that it was contrary to the neighbourhood plan. These letters were partly in response to the additional evidence submitted by the applicant.
Most notably, a copy of a letter from the proprietor of Londis in Southwater had been received. The letter stated that he was interested in the retail unit. This appeared to be contrary to the evidence submitted by the applicant as outlined in the report. However, it should be noted that the letter stated that his interest was based on the length of lease, rent and incentives. Without knowing what these requirements were, such as the incentives, the Planning Officer could not say whether this was a reasonable offer. Additionally, the letter suggested that they would be interested in a smaller retail unit as well and not the larger unit as originally proposed.
Three members of the public spoke in objection to the application. The Applicant’s agent addressed the Committee in support of the proposal. A representative of the Parish Council also spoke in support of the application. The prospective tenant of the proposed shop and the prospective tenant of the proposed veterinary practice both spoke in support of it.
Members considered the officer’s planning assessment which indicated that the key issues for consideration in determining the proposal were: the principle of the change of use; design; highway safety and parking; and impact on neighbouring amenity.
A Local Member considered that further independent evidence regarding economic viability of the smaller shop unit should be sought, and moved that the application be deferred for one cycle. Members voted on this motion and it was dismissed. Members noted that the applicant had failed to find a tenant for a larger retail space and concluded that the smaller unit and café would meet the needs of the community.
That planning application DC/18/2594 be granted subject to the conditions as reported, with an additional condition regarding external lighting:
Pre-Occupation Condition: Prior to occupation of either the veterinary surgery or the retail unit hereby permitted, details of any external lighting for the relevant use shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. The lighting shall be installed in accordance with the agreed details and thereafter retained as such.
Reason: To safeguard the amenities of the site and surrounds in accordance with Policies 32 and 33 of the Horsham District Planning Framework (2015).