Letter: System favours developers – and not affordable homes

24th July 2020

Letter published by the West Sussex County Times, 23 July 2020

Sir,

System favours developers – and the under-delivery of affordable homes

David Griffiths (Horsham Society column, WSCT print edition) rightly considers that it “is no way acceptable” that for Land North of Horsham “Horsham District Council has agreed a percentage nearer 18% for ‘traditional affordable housing” (WSCT 9/07/20) instead of the 35% required by the council’s local plan; therefore 495, instead of 962 of the 2750 new houses that are to be delivered by this development.  Why so?  

The application to develop this huge greenfield site, with the provision for affordable homes reduced by the applicant to 18% on grounds of financial viability, was decided and approved at an Extraordinary Council Meeting held 22 May 2017.

Although allocated in the Horsham District Planning Framework, adopted November 2015, in expectation that it would deliver 35% affordable housing, a majority of councillors voted to allow the application, even though it was acknowledged that the viability appraisal submitted by the applicant was out-of-date and in need of reassessment with the likelihood that a new appraisal would show that the site could deliver more than 18% affordable homes.

Tellingly councillors were fearful that should they defer permitting the application to enable its viability to be reassessed the applicant would secure permission at appeal.

There is a political dimension to this shameful and fear-driven decision. The applicant’s stance on the provision of affordable homes, and their playing the viability card, has been enabled by policies crafted and imposed by successive governments to benefit developers.

And, now looming on the horizon are yet more changes of planning policy that considering the Prime Minister’s speech (30 June) will tilt the balance even further in favour of developers, and development that consumes irreplaceable countryside – and under-delivers affordable housing.

Yours faithfully,
Dr R F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex