Horsham planning making ‘encouraging progress’, council say

Park North, Horsham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin
Park North, Horsham District Council office. Photo by Derek Martin

‘Encouraging progress’ is being made by the council’s planning department, following the Government’s threat of placing it in special measures in June.

Horsham District Council had been criticised for its speed in processing planning applications, but discussed how the service could be improved at the Scrutiny and Overview Committee meeting last night (Monday September 9).

Brian O’Connell (Con, Henfield) dismissed the idea of consulting the public on the issue.

He said: “The planning department is a service provided and that is what we have got to get back to. It is good to work properly, quickly and efficiently, but it hasn’t been doing so.

“We need to find out what it has stopped doing, and what should be done to make it one of the best services in the country again.

“I am of the opinion that there is nothing to be gained by undertaking a public survey at this time.

“The public don’t have the knowledge of the process, and I think we will just get people that don’t agree with planning decisions, which is not what the review is about.”

In June, the council was named by ‘Planning’ magazine as one of seven local planning authorities in line to be placed in ‘special measures’.

According to the magazine, councils that determine fewer than 30 per cent of major applications within 13 weeks over a two-year period are to be stripped of their planning powers.

In such cases, developers will be given the option of submitting major applications directly to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS), rather than the local planning authority.

George Cockman (Ind, Ashurst and Steyning), chairman of the Scrutiny and Overview Committee, said: “It sounds like encouraging progress.”

And Roger Arthur (UKIP, Chanctonbury) added: “We know that we were [threatened to be] put on special measures, but I believe we have already improved the times for decisions and planning applications.

“We need to find out how this was achieved.”