Letter: Horsham housing target is unsustainable

5th June 2020

Letter published by the West Sussex County Times, 4 June 2020

Sir

Horsham Local Plan: housing target is unsustainable

Legal and General has delayed building of houses North of Horsham, because of Covid-19 – and is now in the process of reviewing its “overall strategy for delivery at Horsham given the challenging situation we are currently all facing” (WSCT 28May20). Other developers/house-builders are reducing their build rates, too, in expectation of reducing sales. The resultant failure to meet housing targets on allocated sites will be the norm and the council’s role to control development will be lost.

In the same edition (28May20), Cllr John Milne (Roffey North) advises that Mr Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, has rejected the appeal by Horsham District Council (HDC) to reduce the district’s “likely target of 1,400 houses per year”.

An annual target of this magnitude would amount to an unprecedented and unsustainable target of 25,200 new homes over the plan-period 2019 – 36.

The ‘Guidance: Housing and Economic Needs Assessment, guides councils in how to assess their housing needs’, issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, states that the formula-based ‘Standard Method’, (which has given rise to the 1,400 houses per year) 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).

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant recession, which the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has advised is “a recession the likes of which we have not seen” (Daily Telegraph, 20 May 2020).is an Exceptional Circumstance that most certainly warrants an alternative approach.

That Mr Jenrick is neither infallible nor omnipotent was made clear on 21 May when the High Court found that his decision to grant consent for 1,525 new homes in London’s Docklands was ‘apparently biased’, and that the application must be redetermined (Planning Resource, 22 May 2020).

Mr Jenrick’s riding roughshod over the justifiable concerns of the District’s elected representatives and communities must be challenged. After all, Covid-19 and its devastating impact on the economy and the housing market is outside of HDC’s control – and 1400 new homes per year is unsustainable.

Yours faithfully,

Dr R F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex

https://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1684074/secretary-state-permission-quashed-accepts-bias-charge

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-times-view-on-robert-jenricks-decision-on-a-controversial-planning-application-dissention-in-docklands-t582v2rht

https://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1684810/labour-demands-probe-jenricks-biased-consent-1500-home-docklands-scheme

https://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1685289/why-secretary-states-admission-apparent-bias-prompted-calls-overhaul-ministerial-decision-making?bulletin=planning-weekly-

https://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1685212/police-assessing-allegation-relation-jenricks-unlawful-docklands-consent?bulletin=planning-daily&utm_medium=EMAIL&utm