New school will go ahead pledges planning chief

Horsham District Councillor Claire Vickers - picture submitted by HDC
Horsham District Councillor Claire Vickers - picture submitted by HDC

The new Horsham District Council cabinet member responsible for planning policy said today (Wednesday) that she was ‘completely confident’ that plans for a new school at Barns Green will be approved when they are next considered by planners.

Claire Vickers faced a huge public backlash on Tuesday when she and fellow cabinet member and deputy leader Helena Croft voted with others to defer a decision on the proposal for a £4m school funded by associated housing.

Their decision not only outraged locals who had packed the public gallery but six of their Conservative colleagues who had spoken passionately in support of the scheme.

Today, Mrs Vickers wrote to the County Times saying: “I realise that passions were running very high at the Development Control meeting but members are there to take fully considered decisions and I am absolutely confident we made the right one in deferring this application.

“What was clear is that there was unanimous support from all members present that they all want to see a new school built in Barns Green. This is indeed a clear example of localism at work and I am very pleased to see this happening.

“Equally though, councillors have agreed planning policies in place and they are there for good reason and should not be easily ignored.

“As part of these policies we try to build mixed and balanced communities and we know we have a need for 240 affordable houses a year across the District.

“So a simple deferral by a month of this application to see if we can get an affordable element and look and see if we have absolutely the best deal makes complete and utter sense to me in these circumstances.

“Deferral does NOT mean it will not happen. I am completely confident it will come back to committee and will be approved.”

More reports and full comment in this week’s print edition of the County Times - on sale on Thursday.