New panel established by national park authority to quell King Edward VII gripes

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A liaison panel has been established by the South Downs National Park Authority to help smooth out some of the problems that are almost certain to crop up during the development period at the former King Edward VII Hospital site near Midhurst.

The panel has been instigated by the authority’s new head of planning, Tim Slaney, and is initially being chaired by Margaret Paren, who is chairman of the park authority.

It brings together representatives of residents, Midhurst Town Council and Easebourne and Fernhurst parish councils, the developers City and Country Group, Chichester Access Group and wildlife and heritage interests, with the aim of providing a channel of communication between all those who may be deemed to be affected by the 400-homes development.

Mr Slaney told the Observer: “The panel is there to ensure good communication and up-to-date information is available, and, if there are any particular issues, to see if they can be resolved by the group before the statutory authorities are brought in.

“We will still be there if there is an enforcement or highways matter, but in my experience it is amazing how some issues can be sorted out by a group like this.”

Mr Slaney suggested the panel should be set up, based on a similar experience when he was head of planning and development for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead: “We had a very controversial site with about the same level of development – 400 homes – in Maidenhead with a lot of residences around the site.”

He said the national park authority’s role, at this stage, was to be an independent chair and facilitator.

“The panel is not there to revisit the decision but to make sure, as the development goes ahead, there is an easy line of communication between the developer and the communities.”

The first full meeting of the panel is scheduled for the end of January. Mr Slaney said City and Country was prepared to open the hospital building so meetings could be held there.

He advised anyone wanting to know more about the panel to contact either the national park authority or their town or parish council.