Residents spoke of their disgust as new flats opposite Crawley Leisure Park were approved.
Developers already have permission to convert empty office block Stoner House, on the corner of London Road and Kilnmead, into 76 flats.
But Crawley Borough Council’s Development Control Committee approved new plans for roof extensions and external alterations to the building to provide a total of 111 units.
After the meeting residents described the decision as ‘disgusting’ and expressed their disappointment.
Gillian McCann, speaking for residents in sheltered housing behind the site, said: “We understand the need for housing in Crawley but we would like to retain some privacy and peace and quiet for our residents in their later years.”
Bob Jeans, who also lives next to the site, described the access as dangerous so near to a busy roundabout, and raised concerns over privacy, and lack of adequate parking.
But Daniel Rose, agent for the scheme, described how the developers had worked closely with the council’s case officer to amend the scheme, and he felt it provided significant benefits over the permitted development. He added: “It’s a significant visual enhancement to a tired commercial building.”
Meanwhile Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate), leader of the council but speaking as the local member, did not think a nine-storey building was in line with Crawley’s ‘new town heritage’ and argued that a decision to approve the scheme could set a precedent for high-rise developments.
He also felt the proposal breached council policies on important long-distance views.
But on balance the committee decided to approve the new plans, which include 16 affordable flats, and will mean that most units meet space standard guidelines.
Bill Ward (Lab, West Green) said: “If we turned this down we are going to get more of a shoddy scheme.
“If you go for the present application you get a much improved block of flats with better standards and in the end more flats.”
Geraint Thomas (Lab, Northgate) added: “It would be an appropriate planning solution to a difficult area between the town centre and the residential area.”
Duncan Crow (Con, Furnace Green) said: “Although I can appreciate people would not want to have a tall structure next to them, we would struggle on planning grounds to refuse this application.”
Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield), cabinet member for planning, felt the new building would improve the street scene, and described it as an improvement over the permitted development scheme.
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