Fears over a scheme for 2,500 homes North of Horsham ‘have become a reality’ as a report has highlighted ‘significant failings’ in a Kent scheme delivered by the same company behind the proposals.
Liberty Property Trust UK is hoping to build the homes and a new business park north of the A264, and has held up its previous development at Kings Hill as its flagship project and a demonstration of its ‘place-making ability’.
Proposals are included in Horsham District Council’s draft preferred housing strategy which is currently out for public consultation until today (Friday October 11).
A report by Kings Hill Parish Council on an application for the third phase of housebuilding at Kings Hill referred to a second report from 2010, which had named Kings Hill as ‘the Number 1 Place Making Exemplar Village’ and ‘the country’s most successful new village’.
The parish council said: “Unfortunately the authors of the report failed to talk to the residents of Kings Hill, especially those living in the latest phase known as Phase 2.
“Had they done so they would have known about the difficulties of living in Kings Hill and the significant failings of the development.”
Concerns included inadequate primary school provision, parking, narrow roads, traffic congestion,poor public transport, and lack of community amenities.
FEARS BECOME REALITY
Deborah Hammond, speaking for Residents Against Greenfield Erosion, said: “It appears that all the fears of concerned Horsham residents relating to the HDC Preferred Strategy have become reality at Kings Hill.
“Massive traffic issues, poor public transport links, downgrading of major train routes, the horror of another needless superstore, open space that doesn’t meet the need, housing that doesn’t reflect the demand, to name just a few; does this sound familiar?
“If North Horsham is included within the Horsham District Preferred Strategy, there will be no going back and it won’t be long before Horsham residents have to suffer the same perils as the dissatisfied residents at Kings Hill.
“If the strategic planning department and the councillors of Horsham District Council will not listen to the residents of Horsham, perhaps they will listen to the residents of Kings Hill?
“Like everything else associated with the preferred strategy, all is not quite as HDC would like you to believe. Clearly, the council has failed to understand the real nature of the opportunity being offered by Liberty.”
‘WE DO NOT WALK AWAY’
However Andrew Blevins, managing director of Liberty UK, said: “We are proud to think that leading global real estate consultants CBRE, through their research, formed their impartial and expert view of the success of the development to date. The CBRE report identified Kings Hill as the country’s most successful new village, praising Liberty Property Trust for ‘reacting to the requirements of local and potential residents by matching the product accurately to their needs, thus creating a clear sense of community pride’.
“We have never claimed that the development is perfect and we have always valued the feedback our residents and business occupiers give us when we periodically review our plans.
“We do not simply build and then walk away; we have been based at the project for 20 years, have an open door policy and are always ready to listen.
“Developments like Kings Hill and the land north of Horsham are works in progress, responding to the changing needs of communities as time moves on.
“Liberty’s long-term development and ownership model sets us apart from most house builders and enables us to respond personally to those changing needs.”
In relation to the North Horsham scheme Mr Blevins said Liberty was listening to concerns by changing proposals to reduce the amount of homes by 45 per cent, and had increased the scale of the business park in line with HDC’s job growth agenda.
While the local Clinical Commissioning Group had indicated a lack of desire to build a new A&E hospital, Mr Blevins said they could identify land if the mood were to change.
He added: “So, as a result of listening and consulting we are responding with significant changes to our proposals, which in turn means rethinking the design and various land uses. A new design will emerge in the very near future and together with our professional team, we are working hard and look forward to sharing our revised proposals and to receiving further feedback.”
The firm has sent a flyer to many Horsham homes this week, and has taken out advertisements in the County Times as a last ditch effort to engage and inform residents of the town prior to the consultation ending tomorrow.
Meanwhile, David Moore, chairman of the Horsham Society, said: “I think Liberty have used Kings Hill as a shining example of how they go about it, and all the locals are for it and is a good reason why North Horsham should go down the same route.
“One of the risks with these strategic sites, they never quite go the way people think they are going to go.”
John Steele, also of the Horsham Society, calledon Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), leader of HDC, to hold a public meeting before the consultation ended to allow residents the opportunity to quiz councillors on its draft strategy, but this request was declined.
North Horsham Parish Council held a packed out public meeting in mid-September.