A crucial topic to be considered by the Planning Inspector at the HDPF Examination on 3 July is how, quote, ‘the proposed additional 2,000 dwellings will be provided’.
Not withstanding the reality that the additional houses have been imposed not ‘proposed’ by the Planning inspector, responsibility for deciding where they are to be built was rightfully delegated by him to Horsham District Council (HDC) – and should have been the subject of public consultation.
However, HDC chose not to declare publicly its intentions for accommodating the additional houses. Hence the omission of this sensitive issue from HDC’s recent ‘Main Modifications’ consultation; presumably because the consultation coincided with the Elections.
HDC’s veil of secrecy was raised last week at the hearing of an application to build 193 houses on countryside at Southwater, when a Cabinet Member replying to a question from a fellow Councillor on how the 2000 additional houses would be accommodated advised that they would be accommodated in part by approving planning applications, presumably those that are pending as well as current.
A Councillor was concerned whether this strategy would apply to villages like Storrington that had not been identified as strategic sites by the Inspector and was advised that applications would be considered ‘on merit’.
Unfortunately, it would appear that HDC’s criteria for ‘on merit’ includes accommodating the 2000 houses imposed by the Inspector; and that to meet the Inspector’s diktat Councillors will be expected to approve all applications to build on countryside adjoining villages.
HDC’s presumption to approve is an open door to developers to decide where the additional houses will be built.
This has huge implications for the District’s communities including not only Billingshurst, North of Horsham and Southwater, but also Barns Green, Broadbridge Heath, Henfield, Ifield, Pulborough, Slinfold and Storrington; all of which are now much more vulnerable to development in consequence.
Dr Roger F Smith
For CPRE Sussex Countryside Trust (Horsham District)