Skip to navigation

21 March 2015: Countryside… or Concrete?

Thursday, 26 March 2015 08:50

Horsham’s prospective Parliamentary Candidates were quizzed on their countryside credentials in front of a packed crowd at the weekend (Saturday). The candidates faced questions on a range of rural issues from housing to fracking, at a pre-election hustings which attracted hundreds of concerned local people.

The event, which began with a talk on The CPRE Manifesto given by Neil Sinden, Director of Policy & Campaigns, was chaired by David Johnson, chairman of CPRE Sussex. The parliamentary candidates began by giving a short introduction on forthcoming policies before being put in the spot light to defend their views on a huge spectrum of local countryside issues.

Housing was a hot topic, with Roger Arthur of UKIP saying, “Developers have been in the driving seat and have not delivered affordable housing. We need incentives for the development of brownfield sites and to address flaws in the NPPF. We have seen the doubling of greenfield development, with no real increase in the amount of homes being built”

Darrin Green − Green Party added “We need to provide for more meaningful landscape conservation and restoration, increase the quality of woods and agro-forestry, hedges and other tree cover, reduce green house gas emissions and further develop alternative forms of energy.”

Frances Haigh - Liberal Democrat echoed this view, “we have lost touch with the land, and we need to stop and think what we are doing, and we need new policies to protect the countryside.” Labour’s prospective candidate, Martyn Davis – Labour voiced his commitment to developing sustainable rural communities saying, “In 2010, all developments had to have 40% affordable housing as part of the development plan now that is drastically cut to 10% affordable housing expectation. If the planning legislation is not looked at and sorted out, places like Horsham will become dormitory towns.

Conservative, Jeremy Quin, was concerned about the rural economy, “we need to educate future generations,” he said. This formed a large discussion later on in the morning, highlighting the need to support young farmers, provide apprenticeship schemes and support the agricultural community. Quin added on housing, “if sustainable development means anything, we must be free to decide how many houses can be built, as we are getting to the wrong stage where the inspectorate can dictate”.

Jim Rae – Independent, focused on transport and energy security, “What we need is sense from the future government and MPs to fight to target moderation in the NPPF that we all need,” he said.

James Smith of the recently formed Something New, offered a positive vision of the future, “Let’s build a society that embraces science and progress,” he said. “We really are all in this together, so we have created a political manifesto that is build a truly inclusive society where one’s fundamental rights are protected. The future is here and we need to make sure that rural areas keep up and benefit from the 21st century. If we have smart cites, we have also have a smart countryside.”

Open questions from the floor included party views on fracking from groups such as RePower Balcombe, whilst an audience member read out the health impacts on air quality from fracking. The Frack Free Residents Association, asked what was more desirable for rural communities, wind turbines or fracking to a more general discussion a consensus of energy security. In regards to questions on Gatwick Airport, Candidates were split on case for second runway.

There was cross party agreement on the need to focus on boosting the rural economy, farming and agriculture and how to encourage young people into those careers via vocational courses. Questions were also asked on reintroducing a wages board to protect the lowest paid agricultural workers.

Other questions from the floor included party plans on the A27 trunk road proposal, and development of train lines in the South East area to lessen the pressure on road networks. The hustings closed with David Johnson thanking all for attending.

join us

Back to top