Plans to build 69 homes on an old brickworks site in Midhurst have been approved by the South Downs National Park Authority.
The application, from Metis Homes, was given the nod during a meeting of the planning committee on Thursday (September 8). The new homes will be built on what is currently the West Sussex County Council depot site, in Bepton Road, with 25 of them – 36 per cent – classed as affordable.
The authority usually calls for applications to include 50 per cent affordable housing but an independent surveyor advised that this would make the scheme unviable.
Chairman Heather Baker: “I’m delighted to see this site finally coming to some sort of conclusion.
“It’s been such a mess for so long and it will be a fantastic improvement to the site and a great opportunity for more homes for people in Midhurst – particularly those affordable homes.
“I think it’s fantastic we’ve got it up to 36 per cent – and given that it’s quite a contaminated site, that’s a stretch.”
The site was allocated in the South Downs Local Plan to take 65-90 homes but in March 2021, an application for 75 homes – 24 per cent affordable – was refused, with over-development being one of the concerns raised. The authority received seven objections to the latest plans, including from Bepton Parish Council and the Midhurst Society.
Concerns included the low number of affordable homes, the impact the development would have on local infrastructure such as schools, and the fact that gas boilers would be installed in the new homes.
The latter was an issue also raised by Isabel Thurston, who said it was ‘disappointing’ to see them included.
She added: “We’ve got to move towards not putting these in in new developments. “Very soon they’re going to have to all be taken out again and changed, so it does seem like a short-term, money saving issue.”
Another concern came from Andrew Shaxson and centred around water neutrality.
Since Natural England published a position statement one year ago, developers have had to show that their new builds will not result in any more water being used than beforehand.
Metis plans to do this by ‘recharging the aquifer’ – essentially reducing the amount of impermeable land on the site to allow more rainwater to soak through to the groundwater below.
Mr Shaxson had his doubts, calling the idea ‘an interesting scheme to get round an issue which would otherwise stop this thing dead in its tracks’.
Officers, though, said they felt it was ‘achievable and appropriate’ – though they had yet to receive any feedback on the matter from Natural England.
The county council’s Household Waste Recycling Centre will stay on the site, with a dedicated right turn from the access point on Bepton Road.