Billingshurst ‘raped’ by developers claims parish councillor

Mike Bobker, Barry Barnes, Doug Rands, at the old cricket pavilion in Billingshurst
Mike Bobker, Barry Barnes, Doug Rands, at the old cricket pavilion in Billingshurst

A MEETING to discuss housing plans for the east of Billingshurst heard that the village had been ‘raped and pillaged’ by development.

The comment came as Horsham District Council’s chief executive Tom Crowley, Ian Howard (Con, Southwater), the council’s cabinet member for living and working communities, and Barbara Childs, the council’s spatial planning manager, were quizzed by councillors and residents last week.

The village is facing a possible development of around 500 homes as one of the options outlined in the draft interim statement.

At the Billingshurst Parish Council meeting concerns were raised about benefits to the community, financial contributions as part of any development and the results, their publication and format of a questionnaire.

Vice-chairman Doug Rands said he was born and raised in the village and had seen it ‘raped and pillaged by development’.

One resident said that if 500 homes were built HDC would then say the village had the infrastructure and even more homes would be forthcoming.

Another said: “The development in Billingshurst has done nothing for the centre of Billingshurst and the planned development will do nothing more.”

One woman said: “The voices are loud and clear - we don’t want development,” while another branded the potential development a ‘scheme of convenience’ with parcels of land east of Billingshurst adjacent to one another.

It was a scheme largely driven by ‘land ownership,’ she added.

Another woman said: “Billingshurst needs this as much as a hole in the head. If you do this the whole place will just cease to exist, it will become a dormitory town.”

The meeting heard that section 106 money was the driving force behind the development, not the need.

But Mr Crowley said the money was not some ‘cash cow’ saying it was used to address the impacts of development.

Mrs Childs stressed that the interim statement was not promoting a particular scheme.

But parish councillor Steve Buck said ‘no growth full stop’ should have been an option available.

Mr Howard said the council was trying to do an honest job and come up with the best or ‘least bad’ way forward, while Mr Crowley said HDC remained committed to working with the parish council.

The meeting was told there was nobody with a done deal trying to dump housing on the area.

But councillors questioned why development hadn’t been spread around other sites in Sussex, saying the problem needed to be shared.