‘Localism’ not here yet, warns planner

SOUTHWATER campaigners are relying on people power and the Government’s ‘localism agenda’ to help them win the battle against development next to their village.

But the planning officer leading the proposals for housing in Billingshurst and Southwater at Horsham District Council told the County Times they will have to wait a year to 18 months before the Localism Bill is on their side - if it even becomes law.

Barbara Childs, spacial planning manager at HDC, said: “There is a lot of confusion at the moment about the Government handing over powers to the local people, but what they are not shouting so loudly about is that in planning law there is a requirement for councils to provide housing over a five-year period.

“The person on the street is hearing about ‘Localism’, but that’s some way off yet. There are legal loops to get through and the Government has made it really clear that they want there to be more homes built than under the previous administration.

“I think some people have interpreted that as not being the case.”

She said the Localism Bill is a complex bill covering lots of areas of local government and so it could be debated in the House of Commons and House of Lords for up to 18 months before it becomes law.

District councillor Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) added that if the council was forced to refuse potential planning applications due to the lack of public support, there was no guarantee that a planning inspector would agree with the protesters.

“The Localism Agenda is not clear. Until we know exactly what the Government will do we cannot know what will happen on appeal.”

Mrs Childs explained the need for a five year plan to provide a sustainable development, known as a ‘five-year land supply’.

“In Horsham we don’t have a five-year land supply. We need to identify land, show that it can provide the number of homes needed and that it can be delivered in five years.

“What we are doing here is explaining that position to people. There is a lot of misunderstanding, but if we are going to address that, here’s a way we can do it.

“We are working with the community to find out what’s important in their area, what can be provided and meet their needs and aspirations.

“Given where we are, we need to provide new homes and there’s a need. You only have to look at the number of children coming out of school to see that. We want to work with the community to find the best for them.”