‘Reckless’ decision as application for £1.2million sports and social club is approved

Upset residents after the planning meeting on Thursday (August 31)
Upset residents after the planning meeting on Thursday (August 31)

Permission for a £1.2million sports and social club in Haywards Heath has been hailed a ‘reckless’ decision by upset residents.

The full planning application to develop the St Francis Sports and Social Club in Colwell Road was unanimously approved by Mid Sussex District Council’s District Planning Committee on Thursday (August 31).

Richard Fisher (foreground) with other upset Southdowns Park residents. Picture: Grant Melton

Richard Fisher (foreground) with other upset Southdowns Park residents. Picture: Grant Melton

The development, which was recommended for approval, includes a new community hall in replacement of the Norman Hay Hall, new changing facilities and parking.

People will be able to access the development through the Princess Royal Hospital or use a secondary access through Colwell Road.

A 48-space car park will also replace the tennis courts.

The residents, who live in Southdowns Park, had fears about access, safety and ‘noise pollution’ and how the community building was going to be used.

The decision was fully expected and despite the amount of concerns by residents, a unanimous decision was made by councillors. It is a reckless decision from the council.

Matt Richardson of Bowden Way

The club previously said it would ‘not be a party venue or pub’ and it was happy to continue to work with residents to address concerns.

Richard Fisher, 47, who lives with his wife and three children in Southdowns Park, previously said the plan was ‘bonkers to consider’.

He said: “We have had to make a lot of noise about this as this development will affect 250 people.

“There will be 1,000 extra cars a week all going through the hospital grounds. I am worried about the safety of my children and the elderly.

Southdowns Park and the access road and hospital. Picture: Grant Melton

Southdowns Park and the access road and hospital. Picture: Grant Melton

“The plan has a number of significant issues and the impact on private roads and safety has not been considered.

“The development will impact both physical and mental health of residents. I think the hall is going to be used how they say it is but access and safety is still an issue.”

After the meeting resident Judith Barnard said the decision was ‘not a surprise’.

She said: “It is not a surprise at all because we have not had a response to our concerns and the issues have not been taken into account or explored properly.

People will be able to access the development through the Princess Royal Hospital. Picture: Grant Melton

People will be able to access the development through the Princess Royal Hospital. Picture: Grant Melton

“The old hall was used as a community building before it burnt down 14 or 15 years ago, however there was 10,000 less people, maybe more who lived here.

“The roads are not safe, I walk them every evening and I am nearly knocked down by cars. It is a private road and we pay a significant amount of money for this.”

Matt Richardson of Bowden Way said the development was ‘dangerous’.

“Access through the hospital is a major issue,” he said.

“It is annoying as the fight we keep putting up keeps falling on deaf ears.

“The decision was fully expected and despite the amount of concerns by residents, a unanimous decision was made by councillors. It is a reckless decision from the council.”

Julie Graves, also of Bowden Way, said noise was already an issue.

She said: “You can hear football five times a week – screaming and shouting – I recorded it and you could hear every word.”

Councillor Clive Laband for Haywards Heath Town Council spoke at the meeting and said the council fully supported the application.

Franklands ward member councillor Rod Clarke said he was drawn both ways.

“I have listened to both sides it is a very passionate story,” he said.

“I have received lots of emails and phone calls, I am drawn both ways. It would be great if residents could be a part of it so they can have a say on what is happening on their doorstep as the amenities of residents is a concern.”

Stuart Campbell, chairman of the club, said the application was to simply replace the existing facilities of the club.

“For the last ten years we have been working with residents, the town council, district council and officers,” he said.

Councillor Robert Salisbury called the development ‘staggering’.

He said: “I am amazed by the development. People get concerned about these community halls but it is not going to be a late night club – it is yoga clubs and classes and there is only events 12 times a year.

“I think residents will see the good eventually and it will make a great contribition.”

Councillor Howard Mundin said he was ‘very supportive’ of the application but was concerned about the safety of pedestrians.

“I am very supportive of this application and the facilities for the area, however Colwell Road is a major rat run and I am concerned for the safety of pedestrians, especially with construction vehicles coming in and out.

“I don’t think highways have looked at this properly and I have some real empathy for Bowden Way residents. I think the hall should be separated from these residents.

“However over time I think residents will come to support this very greatly.”

Councillor Cherry Catharine said residents did not need to be worried about the noise because the community hall would be used for exercise groups. However she said traffic concerns needed to be taken into account.

Planning officers agreed it was a ‘particularly sensitive’ application and said it was recognised that there would be an impact on residents, particularly when there would be larger events in the hall.

However officers said the positives outweighed the harm of residents.

Highways England also had no objections to the application.

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