Development threats heard at packed meeting in village

cleared from Horsham Graphics
cleared from Horsham Graphics

Plans for a new village near to Henfield came in for heavy criticism at a packed public meeting on May 10.

The Hands Off Henfield group arranged the meeting to let people know about likely house building in the area, and to explain the importance of having a Neighbourhood Plan.

Henfield Parish Council chair Ray Osgood told the meeting that it could be a development of up to 30,000 people.

Henfield, which has a little more than 5,000 residents, would be dwarfed by the new settlement.

South Downs MP Nick Herbert addressed the meeting. Reflecting on it this week, he told the County Times: “I said that, following the scrapping of the South East Plan, it is now up to our district councils to set the appropriate level of new housing, while villages can determine where development is located by drawing up a neighbourhood plan.

“I reiterated my view that while some new housing is necessary, it must be at sustainable levels.

“Neighbourhood plans will help villages to protect themselves from speculative development that causes so much anguish, so I’ve been encouraging parish councils to take them forward.”

Mr Herbert told the meeting that the proposed new town would be built on a flood plain, with no local rail service, and would be totally unsustainable.

He also said that although the old regional target of 73,000 new homes in the south east has supposedly been dropped, developers can still use it to get house building schemes approved.

In a recent decision concerning a Billingshurst site, an inspector used the old figures from the South East Plan to justify approving a planning application.

Mr Herbert criticised this situation, saying it is a way of ‘reintroducing targets through the back door’ and goes against the spirit of the Localism Act.

However, he spoke in support of affordable housing, saying that young people need help to get a ‘foot on the ladder’.

Mr Osgood said he would support a target of 60 per cent affordable homes in new developments.

Horsham District Council chief executive Tom Crowley said the council had set a target of 40 per cent, but even that can cause a problem because developers do not make a profit from them.

Mr Herbert pointed out that land with planning approval can be worth as much as £3 million an acre, compared with £3,000 for agricultural land.

A Henfield Area Response Team member asked about the impact of more houses on overloaded local services, highlighting the difficulty of getting an ambulance to Henfield, and pointing out that additional traffic will make the situation even worse. Another resident said the situation with services is already ‘a shambles’, and suggested that the Horsham planning department is no longer fit for purpose.

To help prepare the Henfield Neighbourhood Plan, contact the parish clerk at: office@henfield.gov.uk