Letter: Planning is neither joined-up nor intelligent

10th February 2020

Letter published by the West Sussex County Times 30 January 2020

Sir,

Planning is neither joined-up nor intelligent

Does Horsham District Council (HDC) really believe that its new local plan will “meet the challenges” of delivering an as yet to be announced housing target in a truly “sustainable way”, that timely provision of essential infrastructure is assured, that environmental effects will be ‘minimised’, that the impacts of Climate Change will be addressed and a ‘high percentage of affordable homes’ will be provided (WSCT 16/01/2020)?

Unfortunately, planning is neither joined-up nor intelligent.

During the examination of the current Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF), adopted November 2015, the examining planning inspector explained that his tasking from Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government required him to facilitate a substantial increase in house building – and that determining whether sufficient funding would be forthcoming to pay for the infrastructure and essential services needed in consequence of the increase was not within his remit.

He also acknowledged that Government policies enabled developers to seek and obtain reductions in the payments required of them for infrastructure and affordable homes.

This has happened repeatedly in Horsham District, notably where developers have played the government-gifted financial ‘viability’ card to reduce their obligation to deliver affordable homes.

Doubtless the delivery of measures needed to address climate change also will be constrained on grounds of ‘financial viability’.

As for minimising the ‘environmental effects’ of development, policies covering the natural environment in the current HDPF were crafted by HDC to provide less protection than those in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). I drew the examining Inspector’s attention to this shortfall during the examination of the HDPF – and HDC confirmed that my understanding was correct – and the Inspector advised that this was permissible – to facilitate the delivery of houses. Will HDC do same with their new local plan?

What the new housing target will be has yet to be announced, but assuredly it will be far in excess of the current interim target of 800 houses per year. No wonder “communities in the area are voicing strong opposite on” (WSCT 16/01/2020).

Yours faithfully,
Dr Roger F Smith