‘Call for calm’ at meeting to discuss 2,500 North of Horsham homes

JPCT 030513 County Council election count at Christs Hospital,  Jim Rae. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 030513 County Council election count at Christs Hospital, Jim Rae. Photo by Derek Martin

Days before a public meeting to discuss proposals for 2,500 homes and a new business park North of Horsham, district and county councillor Jim Rae calls for constructive debate.

Looking ahead to next Monday evening’s Public Meeting being hosted by North Horsham Parish Council, wouldn’t it be good if instead of 2 1/2 hours of ‘we do not want it here’ being voiced by resident after resident something constructive actually came out of the meeting?

As a Horsham district and a West Sussex county councillor representing both Holbrook East and the Roffey division, I am already acutely aware of just how unpopular the North Horsham element of preferred draft strategy is.

I very publicly backed the documents going out to consultation, not because I am in favour of development in that location, but because I wanted to be assured that residents in ‘my patch or patches’ had every opportunity to voice their concerns which others would have denied them – that to me is called democracy.

Let’s look at some simple facts:

• North Horsham is already named as a strategic site, we cannot ignore this - that fact will not just go away; it must be faced and public consultation is the mechanism that enables us to consider the issues arising from any preferred strategy. • If we attempt to ignore the fact that North Horsham is already named as a strategic site then we could lay ourselves open to ‘planning by appeal’, within that route lays disaster; we lose control and we could well lose any community benefits that may have arisen should the site ever get the go-ahead.

• We need significant economic development in the district, we must provide high quality jobs to retain in the district our residents in the 20-45 age range (which currently we are failing to do); we also need to secure HDC’s finances through the rest of this decade and the next.

• We have to build a minimum of 11,500 additional dwellings in the district by 2031 – there is no getting away from that, with current builds, permissions, appeals and local plans HDC can account for around 9,000 of those dwellings – that leaves us 2,500 short.

North Horsham has been cited within the preferred strategy as the primary area able to take the economic development of a hi-spec business park, the ‘price to create the infrastructure to support the business park’ we are told is 2,500 dwellings to be sited alongside the economic development. This is to achieve cost efficiency and therefore maximise the amount available from the developer in the form of community benefits.

So, wouldn’t it be good if on Monday evening we could have a constructive discussion, if residents do not want the business park north of the A264, then where else in the district could it and the associated 2,500 dwellings go on one single site.

To me that is the meaning of consultation, personally I have never seen ‘no’ as being either a constructive or credible response.

Jim Rae

Horsham district councillor (Holbrook East ward)

West Sussex county councillor (Roffey division)

The North Horsham Parish Council meeting will be held on Monday September 9 at North Heath Hall in St Mark’s Lane starting at 7.30pm. Public speakers will have a chance to speak for three minutes. With a capacity of 240 any extra residents above that number will be turned away.

HDC is currently consulting on its draft preferred housing strategy, which includes plans for 2,500 homes North of Horsham, with 500 houses in both Southwater and Billingshurst.