PLANS for a swimming pool have been turned down on the grounds there were no ‘compelling circumstances’ for such a development in the countryside.
A 30-year battle to find a site ended in defeat after a plan at West Lavington was thrown out by the South Downs National Park.
Richard and Alexandra Kershaw submitted the proposal for a commercial indoor swimming pool, with a treatment room, changing facilities, parking, a private house, manager’s accommodation and two self-catering holiday lets, on a field in West Lavington.
The Kershaws said they were ‘gutted and disappointed’ by the decision.
“Midhurst has tried to find a suitable site and develop a pool for 30 years but failed. We completely understand the purposes of the committee,” said Richard. “But the tone of the officer’s report was very negative so put us on a back foot.
“We raised significant concerns over the accuracy of the officer’s report. In our opinion, it fails to identify any of the positive aspects of the development. It is inaccurate, misleading and misrepresentative of our scheme and we requested the application to be deferred to allow a thorough review.”
At the 11th hour, 45 letters were submitted in support of the application – but it was not enough to change the view of the committee.
Planning officers said it would be ‘harmful to the rural character of the area’ and there was ‘no justification or need for two new dwellings in the countryside which are neither social housing nor for essential agricultural purposes’.
Richard said the pool would have brought economic benefits to the community and had the support of four schools.
“The pool would have been offered to the community, fostering their health and social wellbeing. We are really grateful for the support we received from people.”
The Kershaws said they would not challenge the decision.
Richard’s father Chris said: “This is a really sad day. It’s a missed opportunity, and there isn’t going to be another one, this is a one-off.”
The proposal received 13 objections. Denise Skinner, from West Lavington, said: “It’s not the right place for a commercial development.”
Yvonne John, from Pendean, said the proposal was ‘not for the good of the community’.
Midhurst Town Council said the plans would be an ‘asset to the town’, but West Lavington Parish Council objected to the application.
The swimming pool would have been open 63 hours a week, for use by schools as well as offering parent and baby swimming lessons, aqua aerobic classes, and adult swimming sessions.
Former Midhurst policeman Ted Liddle has long campaigned for a pool in the town.
“I wholeheartedly support this admirable, and unique opportunity,” he told the committee. “I spent many years putting together plans, hoping Chichester District Council would support such a proposal.”
Also backing it was councillor John Cherry, who said: “The people of Midhurst and the council would not have to finance the pool – it comes free. This has been a long-term Midhurst objective for many years.”
But the committee remained steadfast in its decision. Cllr Alun Alesbury said: “I’ve found it surprising that this proposal has come forward at all in a national park. I don’t think it’s at all appropriate for the setting.”
Cllr Neville Harrison added: “Midhurst has not managed to crack this problem before. If Midhurst got together, as a community it could raise the money and get a better site.”