Revised plans for the £31m redevelopment of Midhurst Rother College have been given the green light.
West Sussex county councillors met to look at the revised plans for the design of the front of the building, and a new layout of the car park, both of which were unanimously approved on Tuesday.
The plans have faced many criticisms, including from Midhurst Town Council which labelled it as ‘failing to rise to the challenge of this unique development’. However it noted improvement in the revisions and stated it would not object.
The design was also likened to that of Ford Prison. Residents, whose gardens back on to the car park, had raised concerns about the close proximity of the bus parking area, which will now after a re-think be in the middle of the car park.
Jaquetta Fewster, director of the South Downs Society, presented the case against the proposed plans citing that, while it was the correct location, the design was not appropriate due to its sensitive positioning in the heart of the National Park.
She called for the designs to instead be viewed by an independent design panel which could provide a rigorous assessment of the design and consult with local people.
The conclusion was that more work needed to be done to raise the standard of the design.
Cllr James Doyle led the comments from the councillors, saying the revised plans were an improvement.
While he acknowledged the use of an independent panel would be beneficial in the future, he commented ‘we cannot hold on to them forever’ before announcing his approval.
Cllr George Blampied praised the redesign for the way it blended in with the landscape, something Cllr Christine Coleman later reinforced.
She said: “We must not look at the building in isolation, or consider it just against the blank page. Its strength comes from the way it interplays with the landscape.”
The councillors were reminded to acknowledge the design is still subjective, something councillor Robin Rogers reiterated saying despite originally objecting to the designs, it was now ‘as attractive as it is ever going to be’.
After the motion had been
passed project manager Jonathan Nerval said: “It’s great, we have been desperate to build it and now we can.”
The road to obtaining planning permission has been a long one with final public consultation being undertaken back in 2008.
At the time opposition to the plans was high with 265 of the
317 people asked objecting, including 93 of the 99 school governors in the Rother Valley who took part.