Ambitious hopes for future of old cement works

S39309H6 Shoreham Cement Works may be opened to the public for one day
S39309H6 Shoreham Cement Works may be opened to the public for one day

AMBITIOUS plans for the future of Shoreham Cement Works could see the site transformed in the style of the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Upper Beeding Parish Council would like to see the area developed in a similar way to the futuristic botanical gardens, which were created on a similar site.

Proposals are being considered as part of the neighbourhood plan and an open day is planned in August to give people the chance to find out more.

The council is in discussions with owner Hargreaves Group to open up the old cement works, on the A283 north of Shoreham, on a Saturday in August, with bus trips from Upper Beeding.

Parish clerk Sean Teatum explained: “Obviously its not our decision and we will have to get agreement from Hargreaves but we have discussed the idea at a lower level with them and are in the process of meeting with them to discuss it further.

“We would arrange a bus trip and guided tour. The aim is to interest mainly people from Upper Beeding and Small Dole and have a captive audience to update them on our Neighbourhood Plan, get some feedback and ideas as to what they would like in the parish, and particular the cement works, and help us get some fresh ideas to move the site forward.”

The South Downs National Park Authority is also involved in the talks and it has indicated that it sees the future of the site as a visitor centre for the national park.

Parish council chairman Simon Birnstingl said: “The parish council would like to consider more ambitious plans that would offer more than just a few jobs in the hospitality sector.

“The Eden Project was made on a similar site, could we do something similar?”

The neighbourhood plan was the main topic at the annual parish meeting in April, the best attended for years, with speakers from Horsham District Council and South Downs National Park.

The cement works was identified is something many people would like to see improved.

Mr Birnstingl said: “The cement works may be an eyesore but there are a lot of small businesses using it that could grow and benefit the local economy with jobs and skills.

“To remove it will be complicated with issues of asbestos, etc., and the site has many important wildlife habitats.”

He said public engagement in the neighbourhood plan was crucial for it to succeed.

“If we do not have enough interest in the plan then it will not be approved,” he added.

“Such a failure would mean that we would miss the chance to have greater influence on the development of the parish with respect to housing, business, the local economy, recreation and environment.

“We would also lose potential financial benefits that would allow the council to improve things in the parish.”