A peaceful protest was sparked by concerns over demolition works at a derelict Middleton poultry farm last week.
Last year, Frontier Estates purchased the land at Yapton Road from West Sussex County Council, after permission was secured for 13 homes. However, Frontier’s subsequent application for a 66-bed care home on the site was refused by Arun District Council last Wednesday.
With the three-year permission for the original 13-home scheme soon to expire, a demolition team arrived on site on Thursday morning but was greeted by a group of residents.
The peaceful protestors were concerned that developers were about to start knocking down the derelict farm buildings without fully complying with conditions imposed when the original permission was granted.
Resident Tim Bell said he was one of up to 13 objectors who ‘spent the whole day protesting’ and making phone calls to ‘clarify the legal situation’. Mr Bell said two PCSOs and three police officers oversaw the protest.
Fellow resident Louise Alger, said: “The developers showed complete disregard for public safety and it was very alarming.”
Also attending was district councillor Shirley Haywood, chairman of Middleton-on-Sea Parish Council, who said residents have been ‘badly treated’ by the developers.
She argued that contractors had attempted to start work without the closure of the adjacent public right of way, which is a well-used access to Worms Wood for dog walkers and families, and without putting up any barriers to protect nearby properties from dust
She said that, although the demolition company had requested a police presence it had been a peaceful protest, adding: “Residents were concerned that the old buildings contained asbestos and occupied the public path in protest until closure notices were put up.”
She explained that during public consultation, Frontier had said residents’ welfare would be ‘fully considered’ during any building works, but felt ‘in reality this was not the case’. She said residents would continue to monitor the safety aspects of the site and were prepared to make similar protests if companies employed by Frontier Estates did not comply.
Frontier Estates confirmed contractors worked on its behalf ‘in accordance with a planning permission granted in 2017’ and the footpath was ‘legitimately closed’.
The developer added that it takes community safety ‘very seriously’ and only employs highly experienced and trusted demolition contractors. Since the demolition works required machinery to operate from the public footpath to the south, a temporary closure order was granted by the county council.
A Frontier spokesman said: “A small group of local residents impeded the path and blocked the footpath, preventing the lawful demolition works.
“A representative of Frontier Estates arrived with printed notices informing the group of the county council’s decision to close the right of way.
“An officer from Sussex Police accepted that the footpath was legally closed, and requested that the residents on site left the site to ensure that demolition could begin safely.”
Arun District Council confirmed the works being carried out on site were the commencement of permission given in 2017. It added that it would be ‘monitoring the works to ensure compliance with the conditions of that planning permission’.
Sussex Police said there were no injuries or arrests with the protest ending at around 5pm.