Two nature reserves in Horsham could be set to benefit from a makeover - if councillors approve plans.
As part of Horsham District Council’s proposal for Rookwood, there are set to be considerable benefits for Warnham Local Nature Reserve which is located adjacent to the proposed site, as well as numerous opportunities to enhance the overall natural landscape for all to enjoy.
The Reserve is a regionally significant ecological resource which currently boasts a 17-acre millpond, extensive trails through meadows and woodland, boardwalks over grassland and several bird hides, especially popular with families and photographers alike.
If the Rookwood proposal goes forward, the Reserve could be expanded and benefit from a new landscaped gateway entrance, with exciting possibilities for a much-improved visitor centre, a new café and new car park which will all greatly enhance the visitor experience.
In addition to this expansion, the land to the west of the Nature Reserve would now be released as public open space creating a new country park.
Putting natural habitats at the centre of this plan has been paramount for the Council. The biodiversity of the site will be substantially increased with scope for re-wilding and enhancing wildlife networks, so that it would comfortably exceed Government biodiversity net gain criteria, in keeping with the scheme’s strong environmental aspiration.
In developing the current scheme, Horsham District Council has listened and incorporated the feedback from residents, community groups, local businesses and key stakeholders as part of an extensive consultation process.
Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Leisure and Culture Cllr Jonathan Chowen said:
"I would like to thank the local community for all their valuable feedback on our ideas which has greatly helped us shape them.
“I am pleased that following the extensive consultation, we are now in a position to consider an exciting plan that can create considerable protection of Warnham Local Nature Reserve and deliver so many improvements for the benefit of visitors there.
“This scheme will also further improve habitats for wildlife with green infrastructure very much at the forefront of our thinking, promoting environmental education and wellbeing and aligning with our overarching Wilder Horsham District nature recovery networks.
“If the site is allocated through the Local Plan, then we would be keen to consult further and work closely with residents, partners and stakeholders to develop ideas for what Rookwood could ultimately look like.
"At the heart of any development is the desire to ensure that nature thrives at Rookwood."
In addition to the new improvements for the Reserve, the additional benefits include:
- A beautifully designed development providing sustainable new eco-friendly homes in a truly unique and stunning garden setting.
- The proposed housing will be limited to approximately 30% of the total land area and only to the south of Warnham Road.
- There will be up to 250 new affordable homes.
- A site for a new primary school with shared leisure facilities for all of the community to enjoy.Expansive green corridors and sympathetic landscaping to protect and enhance Boldings Brook and the Red River as well as mitigate existing flooding issues.
- A network of new paths to encourage increased cycling and walking.
- A real opportunity for increased ease of accessibility to the northern section of the site allowing more people to enjoy the green space without the limitations of the current golf course.
- The development will deliver new funding which will enable the Council to continue to safeguard key frontline community services for future generations across the whole of the District.
- An exemplar approach with mitigations for climate change, improved opportunities for health and wellbeing, protection of wildlife and enhancement of ecological biodiversity at the heart of the potential development.
- This proposal has been submitted by real estate advisors Avison Young for independent assessment by Strategic Planning Officers as part of the process for the Council’s new Local Plan that the Government requires it to produce.
The next version of the Local Plan (Regulation 19) will be published for consultation in the spring of 2021.