Embarrassing delays and policy paralysis is how council housing policy is being characterised this week.
Responding to the assertion that ‘Horsham is full’ by two Conservative councillors in last week’s County Times, John Steele, of the Horsham Society, contrasted Horsham District Council’s situation with that of neighbouring Mid Sussex, where they had recently published their draft Local Development Framework.
He explained: “Horsham, on the other hand, still doesn’t have a plan. Instead of engaging with parish councils and local communities, it adopted an arrogant top down approach which unsurprisingly is unlikely to have grass roots support. Consequently, there has been a series of embarrassing delays and policy paralysis.”
He added: “Courted by developers and in fear of local reaction, councillors simply can’t agree how many houses should be built or where; and when they do finally decide it is likely they will make a hash of the task.”
Developers presented various strategic site options for large scale development in the district to HDC in July 2012 and three of those options were 4,500 homes North of Horsham, 1,750 homes east of Billingshurst and 2,750 houses west of Southwater.
Peter Burgess and Christian Mitchell, Conservative councillors for Holbrook West, the ward in which the North of Horsham development might take place, said that substantially increasing the number of houses in and around Horsham town was not an option.
Mr Steele agreed with the pair and called for a new settlement in the south of the district instead of 4,500 homes North of Horsham, which he thought could destroy the town’s sense of community and bring coalescence with Crawley closer.
Mayfield Market Towns has previously floated the idea of 10,000 new homes broken into five settlements between Henfield and Sayers Common as a way for Crawley, Mid Sussex and Horsham to solve their housing needs.
Developer Welbeck Land, which has lobbied HDC over a possible 3,500 homes west of Ifield, agreed with the two Conservatives’ assessment, and said that imposing the needs of Crawley on Horsham towns made no sense at all.
Richard Thomas, a partner at Welbeck, explained that since Crawley would need to export its housing needs to neighbouring authorities since its administrative boundaries are too tight, making the land near Ifield, within the Horsham district, was the ideal place for new homes to go.
HDC has yet to announce when it will publish its draft Local Development Framework for consultation, which will set out how many houses will be built in the district over the next 20 years, and which strategic sites will be brought forward.
Before the process was put on hold in October 2012 Ian Howard (Con, Southwater), cabinet member for living and working communities, suggested that he would recommend a number of 635 houses a year, or 12,700 in total.