Historic wall causes delays

A SITE visit this week will determine the fate of a major extension for a leading horticultural firm.

Members of Arun District Council’s development control committee went to Sefter Farm on Tuesday to look at the proposals for an additional building.

The visit by the committee’s site inspection panel came after the committee deferred a decision about the new structure for storing vegetables in spite of an appeal by the farm’s owner.

Julian Marks, the managing director of Barfoots of Botley, said the additional storage shed was essential to its continued prosperity in employing 6,000 people mostly in the district.

“We supply some of the most demanding retailers in the world,” he said.

“The addition of this building to the site is absolutely crucial to help us to meet the demand of the summer season which is bearing down on us.

“Without it, we will struggle to complete our customers’ orders in a timely and efficient fashion. If we leave our crops in the field, we leave our profits there too.”

He said the scheme for the 963sq m extension at the Pagham Road site was given approval three years ago but the recession caused it to be delayed.

But planning officer Dan Vick told the committee Arun’s historic buildings advisor said the proposed store would harm the setting of the Grade II listed Sefter Farmhouse according to the latest planning rules.

He said it would encroach into the historic farmyard and cause the removal of part of an historic wall.

Even the re-use of the wall’s material in other sections would fail to overcome the damage.

If the committee wanted to approve the plans, the decision would need to be deferred to enable the advisor to be consulted for conditions to limit the impact on the historic site.

Committee vice-chairman Dawn Hall (C, Pagham) said a site visit would enable the councillors to view the area. “It does not look to me like an interesting wall. There is a lot of damage to it, a lot of rubble in it and concrete at the bottom of it. A site visit will give members the opportunity to see the impact on the wall,” she said.

Cllr Ricky Bower (C, East Preston) said: “The proposal for a site visit is a sensible one. The wall needs to be seen to be capable of being assessed by members.”

But Cllr Ann Smee (C, Bersted) said: “We should go ahead as there is the risk of this company losing jobs and production.”