A GROUP of Sway residents erupted in fury after a controversial redevelopment of the Hatch Motors site was voted through – with one objector claiming there is the “potential for Armageddon” in the village.
Members at the national park authority’s latest planning committee meeting narrowly approved an application for a Co-op store with four flats above and four town houses to the rear after a heated debate lasting over an hour. The vote was five to four in favour.
As the decision was announced, residents in the public gallery erupted in jeers, with some shouting out: “Be ashamed!” and “You are a disgrace!”
Speaking outside the meeting, one objector said: “What a spineless lot! This is a complete disgrace. This is going to ruin Sway; but they don’t care.”
Sway resident Diane Platt-Higgins said: “I’m absolutely ashamed of this [committee]. They should have had the courage to reject this plan, which is dangerous and completely wrong for our village.”
Another villager Anne Dew added: “There is just not enough room for parking and lorries to get in and out safely. I’d like to know what they are going to do when someone, probably a child as this is near a school, gets knocked over by a delivery lorry or a car at that site.
It was the third time lucky for applicant, Ringwood based Landmark Estates, which had appealed the rejection of its second submission. It was thrown out by the inspector, and previous planning committees had ruled the proposal lacked parking and provision for delivery vehicles.
The inspector had recommended Landmark reduce the number of flats by one and improve facilities for delivery vehicles.
But at the committee meeting, Karen Marshall, who represents opposition group the Hatch Motors Development Group, told members: “You have asked him (the developer), on more than one occasion, to go back to the drawing board, and each time the plan looks the same.
“The plan is worse than its predecessors and it puts profit, not safety, first.”
She said the group recognised there was a need for a “thriving village centre and affordable homes”, but added: “The proposed development is putting our residents in harm’s way by not providing adequate maneuvering space and pedestrian access.”
Her views were backed by chairman of Sway Parish Council, Cllr Stephen Tarling. He pointed out that previously, New Forest district councillor Richard Frampton had claimed the development had the “potential for Armageddon” in the village.
Cllr Tarling said the parish council felt the plan was “overcrowded, dangerous and contrary to your policies.”
He said amended proposals for the provision of delivery vehicles were the “worst of all”, and would now involve drivers having to reverse around a blind bend.
Cllr Tarling also accused Landmark Estates of having a “fantasy parking plan”, saying space was insufficient for what could possibly be 38 residents of the flats and houses plus shoppers.
Several members also spoke out against the plan, arguing problems highlighted in the previous applications had not been sufficiently addressed in the latest amended plan.
Barry Rickman said the development would cause “an incredible increase in activity in the village”.
He also said a last-minute offer by Landmark to have a post office counter in the Co-op – after news the one in the village is closing down – was a total “red herring” as there was no firm commitment.
Mr Rickman criticised fellow members who had urged the planning inspector’s recommendations should be followed for fear of being landed with a big bill for costs in the event of a second appeal.
“I am shocked they say this is a risk,” he said. “What about the risk to the villagers of Sway? “This plan is something everybody fears, every inch of the development will have that fear in it. What is needed is for the developers to re-plan it properly and everybody would be happy.”
But the NPA’s executive director for strategy and planning, Steve Avery, warned members they would be on “a hiding to nothing” if the application went to appeal again, and there would be a “significant risk” of costs being awarded against them.
Mr Avery said the planning inspector now had “no issues” with the application and that Hampshire County Council’s highways department “were very clear” that they, too, had no objections.
Members said they felt they had to support the application “reluctantly”.
John Sanger said: “This isn’t perfect but I don’t remember many perfect applications coming in front of us. We have all the advice in front of us, fortunately or unfortunately, that says that this is acceptable.
“I don’t see any way we could persuade an inspector, or ourselves, that this is unacceptable. It is unfortunate that we haven’t got a better scheme, but I think this one has to be passed.”