Dog creche bids to open in unit used for ‘rave and cannabis factory’

The Ham Bridge Trading Estate, in East Worthing. Picture courtesy of Google Street View
The Ham Bridge Trading Estate, in East Worthing. Picture courtesy of Google Street View
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A canine creche fit for royal dogs will not open at a vacant industrial unit reportedly used for an illegal rave and cannabis factory.

Storrington and Horsham-based Doodley Dogs hoped to open a new centre in Willowbrook Road, East Worthing.

But a Worthing Borough Council policy to protect industrial units in light of a chronic space shortage led to the proposals being rejected on Wednesday (July 27).

Doodley Dogs co-owner Amy Hatcher told the planning committee: “We are a state of the art set up. We are the UK’s first dog creche and by far the most successful.

“We’ve been live on ITV, BBC, all the news channels, I write for the best dog magazines and we even look after the royals’ dogs.”

The Ham Bridge Trading Estate is home to manufacturers including GSK, Rayner Intraocular Lenses and electronic thermometer firm ETI.

A committee report noted how Worthing had ‘unprecedented high levels’ of industrial businesses, with a vacancy rate of just 1.08 per cent.

The trading estate has just unit not currently under offer or unoccupied.

Doodley Dogs would have required a change of use for its proposed unit, meaning it would no longer be used for industrial businesses.

Planning officer Gary Peck explained the demand for industrial had led to a long-established policy to preserve such units.

Doodley Dogs co-owner Jane Hatcher argued the unit was identical to the firm’s Storrington site, also on a trading estate – but Mr Peck said Horsham District Council did not have a policy like Worthing.

The committee heard the council had previously taken action against a gym in Southdownview Road for an unauthorised change of use.

It was also investigating another potential planning breach.

Despite the council’s stance, the Hatchers argued their plan was the best use of the space.

Jane said: “It was subject to crime. There was a cannabis farm before we found it and also an illegal rave,” adding the business would be environmentally friendly and operate on a long-term lease.

The plans attracted 22 letters of support and five objections, including opposition from East Worthing Industrial Traders’ Association.

Councillors praised the business duo but rejected the plans, in light of the policy, by seven votes to one abstention.

Councillor Paul Yallop said: “It is a great business and it is clearly needed in Worthing. If this was Dragons’ Den I would be in. I’m sold on it. But it’s not, it’s planning and it is a really difficult one.”

Speaking to the Herald today (July 29), Jane said she was unsure of the next steps.

She explained the business was limited in suitable locations because of the expense of high street units and potential disturbance if they moved to a residential area.

She said: “We have already got clients in Worthing but at the moment they have to go to Storrington. A lot of our staff already live in Worthing. For us it’s a natural step.”