Horsham DC should say no to government targets

12th March 2020

Letter published in the West Sussex County Times, 12 March 2020.

Dear Sir,

HDC should say NO

By means of its hocus-pocus ‘Standard Method’ formula the Government (e.g. elected ‘representatives’ at Westminster) has imposed on Horsham District a minimum annual housing target of 965 houses per year, to which, the Council (HDC) insists, a 5% ‘buffer’ must be added, therefore 1,013.25 per year minimum – therefore 18,238 minimum over the plan period.

To this figure must be added the so-called ‘unmet housing need’ of other councils, which according to HDC’s draft Local Plan, para 6.9, “comes to around 3,000 houses per year”.

How many of those houses will be picked-up by/allocated to Horsham District has yet to be made public, but is likely to be more than the 400 houses per year indicated in the draft Plan, therefore more than 7,200 over the plan period, therefore a plan-period target in excess of 25,438 (18,238+7,200), for which a huge number of greenfield sites will have to be allocated.

As is recognised in the draft Plan (para 6.16), HDC does not have any direct control over housing delivery rates and there is “no guarantee that there will not be issues outside of our control (such as a national economic downturn) which would limit the delivery of homes”.

There is now considerable economic uncertainty and a national and global economic downturn is becoming increasingly likely.

In which event, developers will respond by reducing build-rates. HDC’s annual house-building target will not be met in consequence, but the Government will nevertheless blame HDC. HDC’s local plan policies relating to house-building would be deemed ‘out-of-date’ and its ability to control development would be much reduced. Any refusal by HDC to permit development on unallocated sites would be challenged and overturned at Appeal by developers – and communities will suffer in consequence.

HDC Cabinet members have justifiably described the scale of development now in prospect as ‘unprecedented’. The Council could and should say ‘NO’ to the Government and its hocus-pocus Standard Method and the seemingly unconstrained requirement to meet the ‘unmet housing needs’ of other councils.

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith
Trustee CPRE Sussex