THE CHAIRMAN of the city centre partnership is set to build his family home in Chichester – after controversial plans were given the green light.
Andrew Finnamore, boss of Chichester BID, has been awarded planning permission to build a one-storey, three-bedroom house on a plot of land next to 118 St Pancras.
The scheme was ‘red-carded’ by Cllr Michael Woolley for its ‘exceptional level of public interest’ as the site has been the subject of numerous planning applications.
Speaking at the planning committee meeting on Wednesday, Mr Finnamore said he wanted to provide a home for his family, including his son who has learning difficulties.
“If the success of this application comes down to flood risk, am I really likely to build a home for my family and put them at risk?
“The Environment Agency says it is safe. How can we expect to find a site that is safer than safe?”
Mr Finnamore, who went to Chichester High School for Boys, said it was ‘unreasonable’ to expect to look for a site in Midhurst or Selsey when there was land available in Chichester.
He said his family has been advised his son, who attends Fordwater School ‘will not have the ability to use public transport’ and would need a ‘permanent’ home in the city.
Chichester District Council officers recommended members to refuse the plan, based on the site’s location in a flood zone.
However, Cllr Michael Woolley said the area had ‘never before flooded’ in his memory.
“The land will never flood again in Chichester. The site is surrounded by walls.
“The applicants have always lived in Chichester and their son has a special need to be in the city centre.
“A young man with learning difficulties should be treated in the same way and should not be unnecessarily excluded on the basis of this flood risk.”
But Cllr Tricia Tull said she was concerned the family’s needs would be a factor in decision-making.
“We have always been told that family circumstances are not a matter for planning,” she said.
Cllr Andrew Smith, chairman of the planning committee, said ‘personal circumstance’ should not ‘sway judgement’.
Residents in St Pancras have been fighting to keep the area clear of development for years. Objectors said the development would not fit in with the surrounding listed buildings in the ‘sensitive historic location’.
However Cllr Fred Robertson said the development would ‘improve the quality of the site’ as it was ‘characteristic of the Chichester conservation areas’.
Members dismissed the planning officers’ recommendation to refuse the application, with 12 voting in favour of the development and one against.