Ray Dawe: the final decision is the inspector’s

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Two weeks ago I wrote about the government requiring councils to provide jobs along with new houses. This brought me a number of emails and comments. These tend to centre on the idea that our district council should stand up to the government and (I quote) ‘not just roll over’ or to accept that we need more houses but then that we should put them in places other than suggested.

The argument put forward for not doing as the government requires is based around the idea that we should either choose a low number of houses to build or simply do nothing at all, ie have no plan.

Fighting talk this may sound but having no plan would simply mean that we would continue to be totally vulnerable to any developer who can find an empty field and put in a planning application.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, as we have already found, we would find it extremely difficult to stop them getting permission from an appeal inspector to build.

The argument for going for a low number of new houses fails because any number we choose has to go before a government appointed inspector and, as we have seen elsewhere in the country, if that inspector judges this number as being too low the plan gets rejected and so we start all over again.

Recently, other local councils have suffered this fate – Brighton has just been told by a government inspector to look how they can increase their numbers and maybe by up to a third. The longer the delay, the longer we are exposed to developers bringing forward planning applications.

This brings me to the other main comment that I received - that the ideas put forward in our new strategy are wrong.

This argument comes mainly from people opposed to development just north of Horsham who say we should drop it from our plans.

To put it bluntly, if we dropped north of Horsham tomorrow from our plans it wouldn’t then take it away.

North of Horsham along with seven other sites has been discussed in council meetings and in documents for possible development since 2009.

If we dropped it tomorrow, I suggest the result would be that the developer looking at that site would immediately put in for planning permission and ultimately get it with the likely loss of many community benefits.

It is interesting that there has been no discussion in this newspaper or elsewhere about what is practically going to happen when the council decides on a strategy to go before the government inspector.

The council will put forward its ideas but (as we have seen elsewhere) the inspector is going to want to look at all possible sites where development can take place in the district.

In particular there will be close examination of those sites that continue to be promoted by developers and were subject to public consultation in 2009, along with more recent suggestions such as a plan from a developer to build an entirely new town near Henfield.

All ideas and the reasons for and against particular sites will be examined as a possibility by the inspector and all parties will have their say.

The final decision though is the inspector’s!