Checkatrade founder's plan for £1.7m Selsey '˜health complex' is refused

The founder of Checkatrade has said he is '˜gutted' to be denied permission to finish a £1.7million project for a state-of-the-art health complex in Selsey.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 10:45 am
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2018, 10:49 am
ks180350-1 Selsey Gym plan phot kate Kevin Byrne, right and the team that were hoping the the building could be a gym. From left:Cas Morrow, site manager, Ruth Byrne, Eden Beauty, Greg Smith and Emily Adams, Core Results, and Rachel Byrne project manager.ks180350-1 SUS-180723-190740008

Kevin Byrne said the part-completed office space in Sherringdon Mews could not be taken on by Checkatrade’s new owners and he had looked to invest his own money turning it into something useful for the community.

But when the item came before planning committee last week, district councillors voted against it after officers said it went against policy on employment space and its marketing. Selsey Town Council had also raised an objection.

Mr Byrne said: “You’d have thought that Selsey [Town Council] would have recognised that I’ve put more employment into Selsey than anyone else in history and, waving my own flag here, the economy of Selsey is largely due to me. I was always dedicated to Selsey. It’s my home and I want to support it.”

He said the plan had been to make a centre for beauty, gym and wellness businesses and free up existing gym space used by Checkatrade employees, possibly for more offices.

Without planning permission, the site must now be marketed for 18 months to demonstrate a lack of demand for employment space.

Mr Byrne said finishing the building would result in non-domestic rates, preventing £450,000 worth of construction work.

Greg Smith at gym business Core Results, had hoped to employ 11 people at the site.

He said: “This decision has come completely out of the blue, we never in a million years thought CDC would object to this health complex and gym, which is much needed and supported in Selsey.”

Ruth Byrne, at Eden Beauty, said she had four treatment rooms and a nail bar planned: “Once up and running it would have employed up to eight people. So to reject this change of use based on employment is ludicrous.

“There’ll be a lot of upset people in Selsey, the excitement over this health complex was considerable, why doesn’t the council listen to local people anymore?”

Change to gym would have ‘punched a hole in policy’

Allowing a new Selsey gym and health club instead of offices before marketing the site would have ‘punched a huge hole in policy’, according to council officers.

Chichester District Council’s planning committee refused the application for land east of Manor Road last Wednesday.

Applicant Kevin Byrne, who sold Checkatrade last year, explained how the new owners did not want to take on the office building still under construction.

Since there was no market demand he was looking at alternate uses for the site.

But Selsey Town Council’s Clive Alden argued the proposed change of use ran ‘contrary to the best interests of providing employment opportunities in Selsey’.

Both John Connor (Con, Selsey North) and Graeme Barrett (Ind, West Wittering) spoke in favour of the plans.

Mr Connor felt none of the objections stacked up and and felt the proposed new use would be good for the economic vitality of the town.

Meanwhile Mr Barrett said: “Any opportunity to employ people in the area should be taken up.”

Janet Duncton (Con, Petworth) suggested the gym and health club would offer a lot of part-time job opportunities especially for the younger and older generations.

However officers pointed to the council’s local plan, which sets out the minimum marketing requirements for such a change of use.

Since no marketing had been held at all they said the application ‘punches a huge hole in policy’ and could set a precedent, they told committee members.

Jane Kilby (Con, Chichester East) said: “I do not doubt there is a need for such a facility in the area but I can’t support the application because the marketing of the site has not taken place to demonstrate to me there is no need for employment within the Selsey area.”

Les Hixson (Con, Chichester East) added: “I do believe that we need to market this and let the building be finished and see what happens to it.”