Almodington glasshouse battle costs taxpayer £125,000

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The county council’s highways department has been criticised for ‘nodding through’ plans for 52 acres of glasshouses in Almodington.

After a planning inquiry, the scheme was dropped – but the process has cost taxpayers at least £125,000.

The vice-chairman of the district council’s area development control south, Peter Clementson, has called for an urgent meeting with the county council to explain why it did not object to the highway repercussions of Madestein’s plans for Easton Farm, in Almodington Lane.

The 14-day planning inquiry was resolved, when an inspector ruled the plans should be dropped.

Costs

Cllr Clementson, who chaired the meeting, said the inquiry was very costly to all parties involved.

“The cost to the council taxpayers comes to more than £125,000,” he said.

“Costs are still being accumulated which will come to a great deal more.

“Access to the planning site was said to be adequate enough for large commercial vehicles.

“This seemed to me to be obviously wrong. The county council declined to come along to the planning meeting.

“There were subsequent road-widening schemes but this was still not good enough, in the opinion of the planning inspector.

“This is an unsatisfactory situation and I propose to ask our senior officers to seek an urgent meeting with the county council to discuss this matter and report back.”

Appeal

The district council had unanimously voted against the plan, based on its scale, siting and access, and refused planning permission in March 2011.

Madestein appealed against the decision.

A planning inspector dismissed the appeal, much to the joy of campaigners.

As part of the inspector’s decision, partial costs of the inquiry were awarded to the Almodington Association, Chichester District Council and the Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group.

Andries De Vaal, chairman of the Almodington Association, which fiercely opposed the glasshouses plans, said the group was upset the highways department ‘nodded through’ the planning application and road-widening schemes which had been put forward by Madestein during the planning inquiry.

He added: “How could they have made that decision when every time we demonstrated beyond all doubt that every one of those schemes was inadequate.”

County

A West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “The highway authority fully reviewed the information that was submitted with the planning application and concluded there were not sufficient grounds to object to the application on highway capacity or safety grounds – and that a road-widening scheme could, in principle, satisfactorily address the safety concerns of additional vehicles using the lane.”

The planning inspector, Claire Sherratt, ruled: “I consider the proposed development would be of a height and bulk that, together with the associated activity, would seriously damage the character and appearance of the surrounding area.”

In her concluding remarks, she said ‘a safe and suitable access cannot be achieved’.

Cllr Peter Clementson said: “I am proud of the people of Almodington.

“They formed the Almodington Association and together they dug into their pockets to add to their defence.”