AFFORDABLE housing plans in the Horsham District have been labelled ‘nonsense’ by campaigners after the release of new government planning guidelines this week.
Roger Smith, vice-chair of Horsham and Crawley CPRE, said in initial comments that the National Planning Policy Framework, released on Tuesday, gives no guidance on the proportion of affordable homes to be delivered by any development regardless of scale.
He pointed at developments west of Horsham, which were supposed to deliver 40 per cent of affordable housing, but are only delivering 20 per cent, and Southwater proposals under consideration, where the number is only 30 per cent.
Dr Smith also questioned council claims made in its ongoing housing consultation (How Much Housing Does Horsham Need?), that affordable homes could make up 40 per cent of all homes built in the district. He called the claims ‘nonsense’.
Meanwhile, Residents Against Greenfield Erosion (RAGE), born in reaction to the North Horsham 4,500 home proposals first revealed by the County Times in January, called on the council to review the thousands of homes already granted planning permission, with an aim to prioritise affordable housing and construction on brownfield land.
RAGE also suggested that the Government’s transitionary period of 12 months would not be long enough, as HDC’s current plan would not be adopted until the summer of 2014, missing the deadline by 15 months.
“If they are going to miss the time frame set, they must provide an interim statement regarding the protection of the countryside within the Horsham district. Protection must be put in place immediately,” a RAGE spokesperson added.
Dr Smith of CPRE called on district councillors and Francis Maude, MP for Horsham, to lobby the Government for an extension.
“To prepare a future plan in 12 months would mean the local community is not adequately consulted with, which I think would be unacceptable,” he explained.
He added that a failure to meet the deadline could lead to a flurry of developers gaining permission, which would do immense damage to the area.
RAGE has also launched a mailshot campaign to more than 5,000 homes to get people involved in HDC’s current consultation plans as they feel the community has not yet been properly engaged.
“Even though there is a consultation in progress RAGE doesn’t believe that HDC has really asked Horsham residents what they want.
“Not enough publicity, combined with a ‘tick box’ approach and copious, complex background information has left people either completely in the dark or feeling thoroughly confused and unable to comment.
“RAGE is passionate that everyone should have their say on the future of the Horsham District,” the spokesperson said.
Henfield Preservation welcomed the recognition given to the intrinsic value of the countryside in the revised NPPF, but remained cautious. A spokesperson for the village campaign group said: “The critical test will be how the changes are interpreted and applied in practice. We remain very concerned about the vagueness of the term ‘sustainable development’, and about the presumption in favour of such development. We fear that in reality we may well find that the countryside and communities such as Henfield will find themselves under even greater threat of unsuitable and unwanted development than ever before.”
Meanwhile the National Trust has called on all countryside lovers to make their voice heard by local authorities.
Dame Fiona Reynolds, director-general of the National Trust, said: “Now the serious business of planning begins. The country needs huge effort at a local level to get plans in place that properly reflect the integration of social, economic and environmental goals, and protect places people value.”
RAGE added: “The statement by The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP is clear ‘Local Authorities should ensure that the places we cherish – our countryside, towns and cities – are bequeathed to the next generation in a better condition than they are now’. This message seems very clear and Horsham District Council needs to confirm that they are listening. “The residents of Horsham do cherish their countryside and it needs to be looked after and not destroyed.”
Horsham District Council were given the opportunity to comment on this story.