I would like to thank all members of the public for the valuable contributions they have made to this consultation process.
Council staff are now in the process of reading, validating and loading comments onto the website (the consultation portal), where comments are then available to view against each section and draft policy of the Preferred Strategy. We anticipate that this task will be completed by mid November.
While the total number of comments received cannot be confirmed until all of the comments have been validated and uploaded, I think it helpful to give people an overview of the position to date and to set out what happens next.
Comments have been received from around 700 people directly onto the council’s consultation portal, making around 1,300 comments.
Many of these have been made on the document as a whole, while around half of the comments relate specifically to the strategic site North of Horsham. The main issues raised about this particular location are:
- A lack of infrastructure and traffic congestion
- A lack of healthcare facilities
- No perceived need for a business park
- There are other more suitable sites for development
Comments other than from individuals:
These include a number of representations from developers promoting the sites that are included in the Preferred Strategy as well as those who are promoting alternative sites such as land West of Ifield; land West of Kilnwood Vale and the Mayfield ‘new town’ proposal.
Representations have also been received from key organisations such as Southern Water and the Environment Agency, Parish and Neighbourhood Councils, adjoining local authorities, business groups and other bodies that represent groups of people.
Representations yet to be processed
Of the representations remaining to be processed, a majority are in the form of a standard format letter with an additional written comment. It is estimated that there are approximately 800 representations that still need to be read, validated and loaded onto the website. It is not yet known how many of these are duplications or further representations from people who have already responded on a single issue.
A final number of all representations received will be available when this work is completed.
The consultation methods used:
The Council tried to target this consultation to attract comments from those who form its ‘hard to reach’ groups. These include young people and people leading busy family and/or professional lives. So, in addition to the more traditional use of exhibition material and press releases, I held two live Facebook chats and weekly mini polls have been run on the website covering different parts of the vision for the future of the District.
A free summary leaflet of the document was widely distributed and a double page spread included in the Council’s Horsham District News magazine which was delivered to every household. The Preferred Strategy was also advertised to cinema goers before the start of films at The Capitol, Horsham.
How does the response received compare with previous experience?
The consultation on the proposed strategic development West of Horsham attracted around 3,000 representations at a similar stage in the process.
I fully understand that any proposals for change generate huge emotion and concern. However, I also recollect the thousands of objections against the major changes that eventually took place in Horsham town centre in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the closure of St Mark’s Church and to the opening of the Sainsbury’s store in its current position. I feel pretty certain that not many people would now want to turn the clock back.
Next steps in the process:
The number of representations against each part of the document and their content will be summarised in a report which will be discussed at a Council meeting held in public.
It is anticipated that this will be at the full Council meeting on 11 December. However, this is yet to be confirmed and will depend on the length of time taken to process the representations received – particularly some of the larger ones.
The contents of the plan and any comments made about it will be considered and analysed. This result will then be taken to Council in the spring 2014. If agreed at that meeting, the next stage of the plan, the ‘Proposed Submission’ will be published for a six week period of representations.
Any minor amendments will then be made and the document and all representations received will be sent to the Planning Inspectorate in Summer 2014 for Independent Examination.
The Examination Hearings are likely to be held in autumn 2014 and the plan adopted after the Inspector has reported their findings in spring 2015.
Updates will continue to be placed on the Council’s website (www.horsham.gov.uk) including the next steps in this process in order to keep everyone informed.