By Benjamin Coren
Horsham district council refused Horsham Football Club’s planning application for a new ground and clubhouse on Tuesday, January 20.
Members of the council voted 13-9 for refusal of the application with one abstention despite the planning officer’s recommendation the development should go ahead.
The plan for the Hop Oast site was to include two all weather pitches, a clubhouse, dug outs, stands and lighting along with a car park. The club would also use a number of parking spaces in the Horsham park and ride adjacent to the site as overflow.
There were a number of objections from councillors, the main being access to the site for pedestrians and cyclists, noise and lighting disturbance to nearby horses and concerns the clubhouse was too large for purpose and it was suggested there were plans for commercial use.
Supporters and objectors spoke in front of the council. Mr John Burroughs, Sport development officer at Collyer’s sixth form college spoke about how a new club would allow Horsham Football Club to share the facilities with the college and various junior clubs in the district.
A second application on the night for 57 homes at the Holbrook Club site was also refused.
The Holbrook application approval would have been necessary for the funding of the Hop Oast development, and both plans would needed to have been approved if a new club was to be built.
The new club would also have allowed Horsham FC to grant a 25 year lease to the Holbrook Club and Horsham FC would then contribute £200,000 to the Holbrook club for improvements to facilities.
Councillor Claire Vickers said the development of the new club would not be within council policy of developing in countryside, however she asked if community benefits would outweigh policy.
Councillor Roy Cornell, in support of the new ground said: “On championship and Premier Leagues level, the clubs work as facilities for the community. Yes, they earn money but this keep the game going. I support this and I want to see Horsham Football Club established in this location.”
Councillors expressed concern towards the environmental impact on surrounding woodland, a lack of pedestrian and cycle access, concerns towards noise affecting nearby horses and how the plan would be in breach of existing policies.
Councillor Jim Rae in support of the new ground said: “It has been said many times that HDC policies should be treated as guidlines not tramlines, we have an opportunity tonight to prove they are guidlines not tramlines.”
Councillor Malcolm Curnock used Broadbridge Heath an an example of countryside development, citing housing going up around a bridleway at Wickhurst Green and a sports centre and supermarket being built there, however he did express concern over no safe pedestrian and cycle access to the Hop Oast site.
Horsham Football Club has been without a permanent home since leaving Queen Street in 2008.
This decision could mark the end of the clubs dream for a new home, and may well mark the end of Horsham Football Club.