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Horsham Local Plan Initial Report

by Frances Haigh on 8 January, 2015

The Inspector’s initial findings show that the HDPF has been found not sound and the examination suspended for 6 months. Meanwhile HDC has to find sites for at least a further 2000 homes. We are disappointed with this outcome, although it was not unexpected.

The Inspector had to judge what was presented to him. He has found the North of Horsham site to be acceptable. In our opinion, this site has never been acceptable and continues to remain so as it is likely to be within the high noise contours of the second runway should this proceed, as demonstrated within the Davies Commission consultation documents. We will continue to oppose development on this site as it offers poor urban planning by not being part of the town and by its close proximity to the airport.

The requirement to provide a minimum of 2000 more homes means that the towns of Southwater and Billingshurst are still in the frame for further development. The Conservatives attempt to protect these areas has failed. The HDPF has removed all of our strategic gaps allowing development to spread in every direction. Whereas the three areas of Horsham, Southwater and Broadbridge Heath could have gradually evolved into a pleasant, well-designed garden city, we now have the town extending in every direction, with a carbuncle north of the A264. In addition, development is being crammed in so that Horsham and Broadbridge Heath are losing their green spaces that enhance this area.

The Inspector has rejected the Mayfields Market Town due to the overwhelming opposition from local residents and two MPs. He does acknowledge the need for a new town if the second runway is allocated to Gatwick. What he does not recognise is the strong local opposition to North Horsham from residents and councillors. Where was our MP in this? Why was he not supporting the 60,000 residents of the north of Horsham District?

The Inspector has misjudged the need for a business park in North Horsham. HDC has a lot of work to do in understanding its economy and in assessing where and what facilities are required. They should not be relying on promises from Liberty Property Trust who do not have a good track record with delivering employment. The pause gives HDC a chance to review the District’s economic needs and ensure that there are manufacturing sites as required by the Inspector. These could be located across the District, in sustainable locations near where people live. With 90% of firms employing less than 10 people surely the more sustainable approach is to distribute both employment and housing, giving greater opportunity to work locally rather than commuting to a large business park in the North of the District.

Although the Inspector considers our Alternative Strategy of dispersal to smaller settlements is less sustainable, he does support the numbers of homes to be delivered from neighbourhood plans so this is a contradiction. Neighbourhood planning is consistent with our strategy. In addition he requires HDC to consider smaller sites that may be beyond neighbourhood plans but which could be deliverable in the short term. Again this would be consistent with our strategy and would enable HDC to achieve the 2000 plus homes that are now required.

It is clear that the Inspector is expecting the Council to decide how to revise its strategy in the light of the need for an extra 2000 homes. HDC now has the opportunity to prepare an amended strategy, with “full public consultation” and to ensure that this time the strategy has the support of the whole community that HDC represents. This poor, mismanaged first attempt may be touted by some as how they have saved Horsham District from development rape; the only problem is that they have destroyed the town.

Frances Haigh
Leader of Lib Dem Group
Horsham District Council

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