Horsham District Council is ‘glad that at long last’ its local plan has been approved by the planning inspector.
The framework includes at least 2,500 homes and a business park north of the A264 and around 600 homes west of Southwater and was subject to two sets of examination hearings in November 2014 and July this year.
Although the North Horsham development has been controversial with residents and even many councillors, inspector Geoff Salter said the plan ‘provides an appropriate basis for the planning of the district providing a number of modifications are made to the plan’.
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), HDC’s cabinet member for planning and development, said: “Our staff and our councillors have put a huge amount of work into this plan over many years.
“Throughout its preparation and in the Inspector’s hearings we heard from many shades of opinion.
“As I have said on earlier occasions, the pressures on councils to build more houses and bring forward plans that conform to Government demands are enormous and growing, and whether we agree with aspects of this plan or not, I am glad that it has at long last been approved by the inspector and we can now concentrate on getting the maximum community benefits from it.
The plan is due to be officially adopted at a Full Council meeting in November, but last month North Horsham Parish Council raised the possibility of launching a judicial review as it agreed to a £30,000 budget for legal expenses as they seek legal advice on the ‘appropriateness, lawfulness and viability’ of HDC’s plan.
The inspector’s report was welcomed by a number of parish council chairmen from across the Horsham district.
Penny Simpson, chairman of Itchingfield Parish Council, said: “Itchingfield Parish Council is relieved that the Horsham District Planning Framework has finally been approved. It removes uncertainty about several aspects of concern to our parish and we now feel able to plan positively for the future and to go ahead with our Neighbourhood Development Plan.”
Ray Osgood, chairman of Henfield Parish Council, said: “I welcome the news that the Horsham District Planning Framework, together with the approved main modifications, has been found to be sound. Even though the housing numbers are higher than we initially hoped they would be, to have a plan in place makes the whole district more secure against speculative development coming forward by appeal.
“The inspector’s dismissal of the Mayfield Market Town proposal is welcomed, although the continued threat from that source needs to be guarded against. The officers and councillors at Horsham District Council have worked extremely hard to bring the plan forward.”
Anna Worthington-Leese, chairman of Storrington & Sullington Parish Council, added: “I am very pleased that at long last the HDPF is to be put in place. This will now enable us in the parishes to complete our Neighbourhood Plans so that we can protect our villages against inappropriate development.
“Here in Storrington & Sullington we have been besieged in recent years by developers trying to get permission for unsuitable and unnecessary developments prior to the implementation of both the HDPF and the Neighbourhood Plan.
“In the absence of the HDPF some of these have succeeded at appeal and we are delighted that the whole of the district is now in a position to resist this and have the development it wants and needs in the places it considers appropriate.
“In addition, with so many of our parishes and neighbourhoods preparing their own Neighbourhood Plans, I am really pleased that following this Inspector’s report, the way is now totally clear for them to take their own preparation further.”
But the news was not universally welcomed.
Frances Haigh, chair of the Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats, said: “This is a flawed plan by a failing Tory administration which puts profit before people. Core parts of the plan including the parkway station cannot be delivered and there is no market for a North Horsham business park.
“There is a desperate need for housing across the district, particularly low cost and social rented housing. In proposing to build north of the town, Councillor Vickers and her supporters will enable developers to create a vast urban sprawl between Horsham and Crawley.
“The lack of vision means we have missed the opportunity to develop Horsham into an outstanding, leading-edge, 21st century town that provides good homes and infrastructure to meet growing demand for the whole community.”
Meanwhile members of Keep Southwater Green have raised concerns over a lack of weight given to infrastructure issues in the inspector’s final report as they seek to limit any future development past the almost 800 homes recently approved to the west and south of the village.
But campaigners against plans for a new market town between Henfield and Sayers Common hailed the report as a ‘triumph of common sense’, as Mr Salter raised significant concerns about the sustainability of the location due to its distance from railway services and the strategic road network, and concluded that Mayfield Market Towns’ proposal ‘is not required in current circumstances’.
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