September 2016: Abingworth Keyworker houses – work starts 6 September
General information and background
There are two current major housing developments in Thakeham that have planning approval and are under construction:
There is also a further major housing application at Snapes Corner (Gladmans Developments), which is not part of the parish’s plans and is currently subject to the planning process.
The locations of these developments are shown below.
Abingworth Meadows development (Abingworth Homes)
The site location is shown on the map above and comprises around 34 hectares of mainly disused mushroom production facilities, with the remainder being agricultural land. Housing on the main site, east of the B2139, is located in the west and centre of the site, with the remaining eastern fields reserved for agricultural use (protected from further development by a buffer zone/ransom strip). The site also includes, on the west side of the B2139, a corner of the adjacent Chesswood Farm site, where the 20 key worker homes will be located.
This development has been subject to lengthy planning process – set out in full here. In summary, the original planning permission (DC/10/1314, approved in 2013) permitted 146 dwellings, subsequently amended to 147 in Spring 2016. The approved housing mix comprises 64 open market dwellings, 51 dwellings for the 55 plus age group, 12 affordable dwellings and 20 key worker dwellings. In addition to the dwellings, various community and sports facilities were permitted. A 2013 challenge to these proposals via judicial review was rejected.
The development featured an ‘enabling’ financial arrangement of £3.75 million towards the refurbishment of the facilities at the adjacent Chesswood Farm site, to enable the mushroom cultivation activities to continue, securing local employment. As per the requirements of this arrangement there has been investment in modernising mushroom production facilities (now run by Monaghan’s Mushrooms), including significant renewal of growing sheds, installation of new water-storage/pumping related plant, upgrading of power and drainage infrastructure and building refurbishment. This work is ongoing but HDC confirmed in late 2015 that planning conditions relating to this investment have been discharged.
New community assets
After several iterations, the new community facilities linked to the development comprise:
- Village Hall
- Pre-School building
- Two football pitches and changing rooms
- A cricket pitch and pavilion
- Children’s play area (LEAP)
- Allotments area (follow this link for more information on this)
- Landscaped areas including a large pond and new location for the ‘Penn Stone’
- New public Rights of Way, including a new east-west bridleway.
The current approved site layout can be see below; the multi-coloured area is phase 1, for which house numbers/designs are fully specified, and the pink area is phase 2 (where the housing mix/number originally approved in 2013 is subject to review). Construction of phase 1 by the contractors, Oakford Homes, is well advanced.
The phasing of delivery of the new community assets is linked to when certain numbers of houses are delivered and occupied. The parish is working closely with the developers to seek to deliver these facilities earlier than the latest point required by the contract.
Current key issues relating to the Abingworth development
Review of Phase 2 housing mix/numbers
In August 2016 the parish invited comments on indications that the developer was seeking changes the mix and number of houses in phase 2 of the Abingworth development. Without extending the consented building area, the proposed change could increase total house numbers over the 147 currently permitted. While a change of this scale would be significant, there are good reasons to review and consider the options seriously. The currently approved scheme does not seem to the Parish Council to reflect local demand, being dominated by a large number of homes designated for the over-55s, alongside mainly large executive-style houses. A better balance of smaller and medium-sized homes could allow more local families to remain in the area.
Some increase in house numbers at Abingworth would also strengthen the parish’s ability, via its Neighbourhood Plan, to resist speculative development of less suitable green spaces over coming years. There may also be an opportunity to secure additional village benefits, beyond the new facilities already due from the project (see above).
At the same time, we must clearly also consider potential negative impacts and how they can be limited. Hence we have begun the process of consulting residents about what is the right housing mix, whether some more houses on the site would be acceptable, and whether there are missing facilities or support services that the parish should pursue as part of this.
Responses to date show that many local people would be in favour of some change to the currently-permitted housing mix – towards more affordable 2/3 bed properties. However, there are also concerns relating to increasing numbers of houses, with issues raised particularly about impact and the capacity of local infrastructure in relation to local schools, healthcare, public transport and traffic on the B2139 between central Thakeham and Storrington. Click through to find a digest of responses (to 19 August 2016) and a set of FAQs arising from the process.
The developer has arranged a local consultation event for 12 November 2016, in the Thakeham Village Hall. An open exhibition (10am-2pm) will be followed by a Q&A meeting chaired by the parish council at 2pm.
As and when a further specific planning application emerges, this will also be subject to local scrutiny at a Planning meeting open to the public, at which the parish’s formal response will be agreed.