COUNCILLORS have unanimously rejected plans by BMW dealer Chandlers to build a new car showroom and workshop complex on the A259 at Angmering.
The proposals were described as “environmental vandalism” by East Preston councillor Ricky Bower at Arun District Council’s development control committee yesterday (Wednesday, April 10).
Speaking after the meeting, Chandlers’ franchise director Martin Walsh, who had warned previously that more than 100 jobs were at stake if the scheme was not approved, said the decision to refuse planning permission was “deeply disappointing”.
Mr Bower told the committee that the development on the six-acre site at Roundstone Farm would tarnish the natural beauty of the of the strategic gap between East Preston, Angmering and Ferring, which was a “sacrosanct” stretch of land to residents and community groups in the area.
He added: “Well, well, well what is it with Highdown? Why does everyone want to surround Highdown with commercial development?
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like this area of natural beauty. It’s a gem within the South Downs National Park and to cut it off with commercial developments is absolutely appalling. It’s environmental vandalism and I won’t stand for it.”
The development, he said, would have been better suited within the area of the future North Littlehampton development, somewhere along the Fitzalan Road extension or future Lyminster bypass.
Mr Walsh, addressing the meeting, claimed that 88 people currently employed by the company at sites in Angmering and Rustington, could be made redundant and the prospects of creating at least a further 20 jobs, along with 60 apprenticeship positions over the next 10 years, would be dashed.
However, Rustington East representative Philippa Bower warned the committee that this claim by Chandlers was simply a “red herring”.
She noted that the new site had the potential to take business and, ultimately, jobs, from other dealerships in the area.
“To suggest that this application would create further jobs is, i think, a red herring and something this council needs to be very wary of.
“I can’t see how they will not take away other jobs from other neighbouring businesses. If they expand they will surely take business away from other businesses.”
More than 200 objections to the proposals were lodged with Arun, including many from members of Ferring Conservation Group.
Ed Miller, secretary of the group, spoke at the meeting against the proposals, and said afterwards: “The council must not be intimidated by threats by Chandlers closing down in Arun and taking their jobs elsewhere. This is the wrong place for such a development.”