Francis Maude: councillors can decide about new homes

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

I’ve recently received a number of letters from local people registering their concerns about specific proposals to build more homes throughout the Horsham area.

I read every letter carefully and I understand the concerns felt by communities, particularly about the ability of local infrastructure to cope with the extra demand that large-scale housing development brings.

When the Coalition Government came to office, we quickly put an end to the top-down imposition of housing targets by Central Government. Instead, we believe that the best people to make decisions about how many houses are needed, what kind and where, are local people and their locally elected representatives – ie, their Horsham district councillors.

The 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) allows local communities, via local plans, to shape the future of where they live. The NPPF also focuses on sustainable development, preventing it if it is shown to be against our collective interest – particularly when looking at local infrastructure. Protection of our natural environment is also central to the new planning rules.

We are in a transitional period, as we move from the old top-down system to one genuinely based on local decision-taking. However, it’s important that anyone concerned about local proposals makes their views clear to their councillors and, if possible, gets involved in the development of neighbourhood and local plans – it’s the best way for views to be registered and taken into consideration.

On another matter, unless you’ve recently turned 18, you’re probably not aware that as each local resident reaches this milestone I send them a questionnaire seeking their views on a range of issues. It’s a great way for me to keep in touch with this important group and I thought readers might be interested in some of the conclusions I’ve reached from the responses. The cost of living, budget deficit and immigration are considered the most important issues facing the country. Poverty and debt in the developing world, defence and terrorism and drugs and alcohol were given the least significance. The need for more jobs, more affordable housing and better transport were identified as the most important local issues. Very few respondents were concerned about the cleanliness of our community or the number of police patrolling the streets.

More specifically, 65 per cent of respondents think the Government is right to make education or training compulsory until the age of 18 and only 23 per cent believe there’s no need for a new acute hospital for our area.

Although opinion is divided on most issues, very few respondents were ‘unsure’ as to their views. I’m pleased that young people in Horsham have obviously thought about the issues that affect our daily lives and hold firm views – whatever those views might be.