PLANNING permission for an extension to a memorial hall has been granted by members of Chichester District Council’s planning committee.
Councillors on Wednesday went against the recommendation of officers, who had advised them to refuse the plan.
The application concerned the change of use of land and alterations involving moving the car park to the north west of the hall.
Itchenor Memorial Hall has an existing gravel parking area which accommodates 35 parking spaces and lawn areas. Planning permission was sought to change the use of agricultural land to a car park and the laying of a hard surface to facilitate this.
The proposal would result in 36 proposed parking spaces, including three disabled parking bays.
In addition, a new cycle way would be provided, the existing public footpath would be retained, a new path between the hall and the car park would be provided and a van barrier would be installed.
Officers explained that the agricultural land was Grade II and it was against the local plan to develop on this.
Arguments were raised that the land was currently not in use agriculturally and speaking as a supporter, Mr Green who was selling the land, said it made up less than 0.7 per cent of the farm’s total agricultural land and was less than half an acre so would have no effect on the farm’s viability.
Mrs Bailey, an objector, said at the meeting: “Nobody is in any doubt that Itchenor Memorial Hall needs renovation and that plans enabling that should be approved today.
“However, I am here today to discuss specifically the car park. In my personal opinion, this element of the planning application should be refused.
“Firstly, the existing car park, arguably with some improvements, is more than sufficient to serve the users of the hall.
“Secondly, the revised car park and cycle lane only come into being if the council agrees to a change of use of grade II agricultural land for a municipal car park. Arguably, this could be seen to set a precedent and because too much of our beautiful countryside and farmland is being converted.”
Chichester Harbour Conservancy raised no objection but the planning consultative committee from the conservancy did express concern over the conflict between the public footpath, the Salterns Way cycle path and proposed access into the car park which will be complicated for users and have an impact on the landscape.
No objections were raised by supporters, objectors, officers or councillors to the extension or alteration to the layout of the hall.
Cllr Tricia Tull put forward the recommendation to approve planning. She said: “There is a huge car park in Itchenor down at the bottom which leads down to a footpath. That is also in the AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).”
“I think we have got to be realistic about this. The AONB is to be protected of course but we are talking about a minute corner of a field.
“Certainly the safety issues which people are concerned about – death by cyclists and cars in Itchenor is way beyond the national average i suspect! I think that can be addressed by extra signage.”