Midhurst convent proposals backed by council

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Plans to build new homes on the site of the former St Margaret’s Convent school in Midhurst have been welcomed by town councillors.

At a meeting on Tuesday members of the planning committee said they believed developers Affinity Sutton had listened to comments they made at two briefing sessions earlier this year and come up with a ‘sympathetic’ design which included some ‘very good features’.

They raised no objections to the proposals to build 25 private and 25 affordable homes, together with 39 sheltered apartments at the site.

Town councillors also said they were happy with plans to re-furbish the Grade II listed Regency villa, which Steve Morley told colleagues; “looks as though it is going to be made into a feature with gardens open to the public at the front, and Midhurst as a town will benefit from that.”

He added: “I think the plans are good: we have these little gardens in the front, it’s a vast improvement on the original plan.

“It has opened the development up and it now reflects the houses on the opposite side of the road – I think they have got it right.”

Gordon McAra said he welcomed the building of 89 homes, ranging from social and sheltered units to private houses, and told fellow councillors ‘it’s a much better development than others we have seen’.

But while architects worked hard to get brickwork compatible with the locality, they never got the windows right, according to Mr McAra.

In this case he wanted to see the colour changed from white to brown: “It’s a small detail but it’s one of the things we need to address,” he said.

Colin Hughes told the meeting he believed in general architects seemed to be very limited in their thinking.

“What is it that makes them think [of] big three-storey blocks? We have it at the Old Dairy across the road from the convent, we have it in the current designs for the houses at the Grange and we have it in Chichester.

“Towns which have a certain ambience suddenly get these big three-storey blocks... why do we have to have these huge edifices?

“Instead of thinking creatively they seem to be all ‘off the peg’ with tweaks.”

Mr Hughes acknow-ledged more homes needed to be built, but he told fellow town councillors: “We want houses which are pleasant to look at and instead we get these blocks which are not.”

Wyn Passmore said she would have liked to have seen more car parking spaces included on the plans for the development on Petersfield Road.

But the meeting’s chairman Mr McAra pointed out the number of spaces provided was in line with planning guidelines.

After gaining the approval of councillors, the proposal is now likely to be called in by the South Downs National Park Authority for a decision.