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Council should act now

17th June 2022

Letter published in the West Sussex County Times 16 June 2022

Dear Sir,

Council should Act Now

Horsham District Council’s (HDC) ‘Big Conversation’ with the public on planning matters seemingly morphed into a ‘Big Capitulation’ to developers when Cllr Lynn Lambert, replying to a question about the need to reduce the housing target for the district said that “We can shout ‘til we’re blue in the face, we can drive a tractor up Downing Street, but I don’t think it will change anything” (WSCT 12 May 22).

Apparently, however, there is no need for her either to shout or drive a tractor up Downing Street.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities & Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, addressing the Commons during the second reading of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (June 8), advised that “We will also be taking steps to ensure that the Planning Inspectorate, when it is reviewing a local plan and deciding whether it is sound, does not impose on local communities an obligation to meet figures on housing need that cannot be met given the environmental and other constraints in particular communities”.

He also said that “We do need to have a more sophisticated way of assessing housing need, and that is something we will be doing as part of revisions to the NPPF”. The new NPPF is to be released in July (Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 8 June 2022, page 832).

In addition, the government’s ‘Guidance: Housing and Economic Needs Assessment, guides councils in how to assess their housing needs’, states that the formula-based ‘Standard Method’ is “not mandatory”, “if it is felt that circumstances warrant an alternative approach,” with the caveat “that any other method will be used only in exceptional circumstances” (Paragraph 003 Reference ID: 2a-003-20190220).

In a time of huge uncertainty and challenge, and with no end in sight we are experiencing circumstances on a global scale that are exceptional and beyond the control of HDC and Government ministers. HDC should seize the moment to write to Michael Gove – NOW.

Yours faithfully

Dr R F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex