Residents rally amid fears of losing New Street Gardens

Martin Read News Reporter
Anybody who has lived in Horsham for a few years will have witnessed the exponential growth in the town. Long gone are the days when Horsham was a sleepy market town and the geographical location not far from the coast, within easy commuting distance from London and with a major international airport on the doorstep make it a convenient location. And, the absence of major industry, low crime rate and the pleasant surroundings to the town make Horsham a favoured place to live with the south east already under considerable pressure to provide many new homes, a target of 800 new houses a year in the district between 2011 and 2031 would mean an additional 16,000 homes with the consequent need for supporting infrastructure. Major schemes are already being constructed in Southwater, Broadbridge Heath and Kilnwood Vale with even bigger developments to come. It is therefore, many consider, all the more necessary to preserve the much valued oases, especially those in urban environments. One such gem under threat is the New Street Garden, described by the Friends as “a pleasant community garden for use by the residents of (built up) surrounding streets. A place to sit for a quiet read where youngsters can play football and have a good run around in safety or where local families can hold children’s birthday parties.” The Friends are committed to maintain and enhance the gardens and to encourage its use as a community open space. And, when the ‘pocket park’ was opened not too long ago, the transformation of the area from its previously somewhat run down state was celebrated – a triumph of collaboration between local residents, Horsham in Bloom, HDC and Forest Neighbourhood Council. At that time Project Chairman Councillor David Skipp said that the 18 month scheme had created ‘a safe green space where all could come and relax, play with their children or just sit and enjoy the flowers.’ There is a grassy area with seating, flowers and fruit trees, Dr Skipp stating that: “The importance of preserving green spaces for community use in an urban setting cannot be over-emphasised. And hopefully New Street Green will be one of many such schemes in the district.” The project was funded by Horsham in Bloom from the government’s Department of Community, which assisted with payment for levelling and tree and other works. New fencing was installed and there were donations from both the Tesco ‘Bags of Help’ scheme and Tanbridge House School with provision of landscaping and plants and Councillor Christine Costin congratulated all involved, praising: “The creation of this delightful community garden, providing an oasis of calm and beauty for local people to enjoy. New Street Green is a result of Horsham in Bloom volunteers working with HDC and others to find sponsorship and action to transform a neglected space into something worthwhile. Thanks to all participants.”
Surely few would argue with such sentiments? Yet, so soon after creation of the New Street Garden it has been proposed to convert it into an access road to a suggested housing development on the RSA car park as part of HDC’s Horsham Town Centre Vision. The Save New Street Gardens petitions page says: “Not only would (the proposal) remove a much-used and valued community garden, it goes against the Council’s own planning policy ‘to retain, enlarge or enhance the existing formal and informal green spaces within the town’ and it would also significantly increase the amount of traffic on an already over-congested and narrow street. Entries on the Facebook page include: “Fabulous space – a big part of life in our little community,” “Great little park,” “Love this garden – have had many happy times with friends and family here,” and “Love this space – a safe place for picnics and outdoor area – we use it regularly.”
When the new houses were constructed at the top of New Street the green with its seating – and where local children had planted bulbs – outside the former Bryce Lodge Centre, was built over. The plans for the proposed road through the New Street Garden will be put forward for endorsement at a Council meeting on November 23. Meanwhile, HDC have just issued a statement saying: “Horsham District Council reassures residents that there are no plans to remove New Street Gardens. The council’s Town Centre Vision statement for the future of Horsham sets out some options and ideas about how the Royal Sun Alliance (RSA) and BR Station car park sites could be developed, but no plans have been approved to remove New Street Gardens  and the concerns of local residents are understood.” The statement goes on to say one proposal would require the provision of additional access via the New Street Gardens but another option explores increasing car parking alone with no impact on New Street Gardens. The statement ends by saying: “The public would be fully consulted on proposals, should they come forward … any proposed development will need to be carefully assessed in relation to any impacts on neighbouring properties, open space and the local road network.” 

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