Campaigners who lost their battle to block controversial plans for the restoration of Midhurst’s historic King Edward VII hospital have reacted with shock and anger.
More than a week after the South Downs National Park Authority performed a U-turn and voted to give developers conditional permission to start work, objectors were still expressing disbelief.
Steve Ankers, planning officer for the South Downs Society, said: “In July the committee turned down three applications from the same developer, the City and Country Group and ‘Friends of the National Park’, the South Downs Society, along with other local groups, expected them to do the same thing last week.
“We’re shell-shocked – we’re very fond of the old sanatorium buildings and keen that they should find a new use. But, if it takes the construction of over 400 houses in and around the hospital, then ‘no thanks’”.
“This was a great site for a TB sanatorium because it was so isolated – which makes it just the wrong place for a new housing estate, miles from services and public transport, and right in the heart of the national park,” he added, “and there must still be a huge doubt this conversion will ever prove viable, however many new houses they build.”
And villagers in Easebourne have lashed out at their district councillor Elizabeth Hamilton who spoke in favour of the plan.
She told the meeting she had not heard negative comments about the proposals when canvassing before district council elections, only ‘pragmatism’ from people who said if the listed building was to be restored there had to be new development. She said City and Country had a reputation for ‘sympathetic heritage development’.
Chairman of Easebourne Parish Council Ian Heustice said: “I can speak for my whole council when I say we were disappointed that Elizabeth Hamilton chose to support the application despite being present at all of the parish council meetings when we voted against the proposals and knowing the strength of feeling against such a large development in Easebourne. Not only did she support the application, she spoke in glowing terms of the applicants and their proposals contrary to our unanimous vote at the September parish council meting against them.”