Setback for Petworth plan as new homes site proposed

One of the public consultations in the Leconfield Hall organised during the preparation of the Petworth Neighbourhood Plan
One of the public consultations in the Leconfield Hall organised during the preparation of the Petworth Neighbourhood Plan

Petworth Neighbourhood Plan has hit a hurdle after an independent examiner called for a new housing site to be included.

It was examined before Christmas and Petworth town councillors, who have led the steering group work, had hoped it would go forward to its referendum in April before being set in stones as planning guidance for developers.

But in his recently released report, the examiner has called for the new site to be included for around ten homes on land south of the Rothermead site.

At their meeting today (Thursday) members of the South Downs National Park’s planning committee will be asked by their officers to agree a public consultation on the new proposal, which would run until March 22. This could put the referendum back to early June.

In their report officers said: “Petworth Town Council are to be congratulated on progressing the plan to the final stage ahead of a community referendum. It is the result of considerable hard work by local volunteers and members of the town council.”

But they said the examiner had proposed a number of modifications before it could go to the vote in Petworth. The most significant was the new homes site next to the former grain dryer south of the Rothermead site.

It was one of several sites packaged together as ‘Option Two’ during earlier plan discussions which was eventually ruled out.

“Option Two included some patently unacceptable sites which would not have led residents to vote for that option,” said the examiner.

“The issue raised by objectors is the site was not rejected on the grounds of its own suitability but because of its collective inclusion with other unacceptable sites.”

He said he believed the landscape impact of development there would be minimal.

Officers said there was no legal requirement to consult on the new site: “However this is considered to be an exceptional case. Although officers are of the opinion the allocation is acceptable in planning policy terms, its inclusion has not been part of any formal consultation process and the opportunity to comment was limited.”