Hall plans rejected despite ‘crying need’ for approval

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A PARISH hall’s much-needed extension was turned down after councillors ruled plans would have an ‘overbearing’ effect on neighbouring homes.

Donnington Parish Hall volunteers must go back to the drawing board following the decision by Chichester District Council’s planning committee last Wednesday.

Supporters had passionately pleaded for planning permission for the Stockbridge Gardens facility but the community benefit was not deemed enough to override concerns over the effect on nearby properties.

Reverend James Cooper, who regaled the committee with the plethora of community groups using the hall, said: “If we don’t develop the hall these things simply cannot happen in Donnington.

“This is the community hall we have and this is what we can develop, especially to meet the demands of the new housing development. Our community needs that space.”

The extension would have provided an additional function room, tea room, toilets and storage space, allowing the creation of five additional spaces.

The committee heard all other sides of the hall were unsuitable for expansion, while the foundations would not support building upwards.

Volunteer secretary Karen Griffin said: “The population of Donnington has grown by nearly a quarter in the last ten years through a number of developments and there has never been so much pressure on the hall facilities.”

Donnington ward member John Ridd said volunteers had to turn away ‘valuable income’ from groups around the district it could not accommodate.

He said: “There is a crying need, an active desire and the money to expand. Sadly, of course, this has to be balanced with the neighbour’s loss of amenity which must be respected.”

The extension would, according to council officers, have been an ‘overbearing and unduly prominent feature within the outlook’ of the neighbouring property.

The recommendation to refuse the application was supported by seven of the nine councillors, with one against and one abstaining.

Councillor Gordon McAra said: “These things are always a conundrum but if this was a public house and it was extending to a foot or so from the boundary the adjacent house we would say no, we would just do that automatically because of the noise and disturbance and late nights.

“Because it’s a community hall doesn’t make it any different, it’s still the same concept, which is to take a large noisy building and move it to the boundary.”