Hurstpierpoint residents’ dismay at application for new office building and carpark

Dozens of letters of objection have been sent to Mid Sussex District Council about a planning application for a new office building and carpark in Hurstpierpoint.

Monday, 7th June 2021, 2:18 pm
The proposed site for the Cells4Life building on Malthouse Lane. Picture: Google Street View

Cells4Life, an umbilical cord blood stem cell bank, wants to build its new group headquarters at East Lodge Farm in Malthouse Lane, next to Contego Safety Solutions.

The application is for ‘a mix of office, research and development and industrial processes’ with vehicle access and associated landscaping.

It will be used as a research facility for Cells4Life and its sister companies Stabilitech Biopharma Ltd and CyteTech.

The application includes plans for 83 car parking spaces and 19 bike spaces.

Some Hurstpierpoint residents say the location is inappropriate for the building and that it is not ‘in keeping’ with the area.

One resident said: “Farming land is not the place for a massive office block with 80 car parking spaces, especially on a lane that is entirely unsuitable for a project like this.”

Another said the building ‘would be more appropriately located in the Burgess Hill development beyond Jane Murray Way’.

Some residents are worried about the building’s possible impact on local wildlife and trees as well.

One said there were protected species in the area, like great crested newts, as well as non-protected species like bats, owls, hedgehogs and deer.

“Although not currently legally protected species, many of their numbers are in rapid decline,” the resident said.

“The proposed major development would only serve to damage their habitat further.”

Some residents are concerned about increased traffic and noise, and fear that more vehicles could raise the risk of collisions involving walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders.

One resident said Malthouse Lane is ‘essentially a country Lane’ with footpaths that exit directly onto it.

They added that busy periods can cause disruptions, which are hazardous to pedestrians, and that ‘the proposed development will only increase such problems’.

Cells4Life CEO Claudia Rees said the application is an improved version of a previous proposal that was granted planning permission on September 6, 2019.

“The granted planning permission can be implemented at any time,” she said, adding that the proposed development is ‘broadly the same as the extant permission’ with the same size, dimensions and use.

Claudia said the new application makes improvements to design, energy efficiency and landscaping and that a full preliminary ecological assessment had not identified protected species or plants on the site.

“The planning application is accompanied by an improved soft landscaping plan on the existing permission, which includes ecological enhancements and features of green infrastructure, making improvements to the overall ecological setting,” she added.

Claudia said the Transport Assessment shows that the development will cause a ‘modest increase in traffic movements’ that surrounding road networks can cope with.

She also said the application has received a ’no objection’ response from the Highways Officer and that Cells4life accepts the conditions to make sure access is implemented to a high standard.

The proposed development has been designed to blend-in with its rural setting too, said Claudia, because the outer facades will be wooden cladding.

“This is a vast improvement to the extant permission, which uses a heavy amount of glazing on each facade,” she said.

Claudia added that the arboricultural impact assessment provides details of the trees on the site and that no trees are located in the centre where the building is going.

The proposed development, she said, aims to ensure the protection of surrounding trees, while ecological enhancements aim to improve the overall natural setting.

Hurstpierpoint Parish Council recommended that permission is granted for the development, subject to Mid Sussex District Council’s conditions, at the Planning and Environment Committee on May 6.

“The original permission to build on this brown field site at East Lodge Farm was granted by MSDC in December 2007,” said a Hurstpierpoint Parish Council spokesperson, adding that this was under reference 07/03319/FUL.

“This latest application seeks to make improvements in appearance and a small reduction in size,” she said.

“Should planning permission be refused, then the applicant can merely revert to previous existing permissions.”

To find out more about the development search for reference DM/21/1118 on the Mid Sussex District Council’s planning application portal.

People can also see Cells4Life’s design and access statement on YouTube.