Decision to switch backing on railway station projects criticised

SUS-170109-142449001
SUS-170109-142449001

Backing a new railway station near Horsham would be ‘unacceptable’ given the council’s previous support for a rival project nearer Crawley, one councillor has suggested.

Earlier this year Horsham District Council approved 2,750 homes and a business park north of the A264, with land safeguarded for a parkway station.

However the Kilnwood Vale development on the other side of Faygate, where HDC approved 2,500 homes back in 2011, also included plans for a railway station.

Now Claire Vickers, HDC’s cabinet member for planning and development, is due to present a notice of motion on Wednesday (September 6), requesting support, particularly from West Sussex County Council, for a parkway station at North Horsham.

Network Rail said it would be ‘delighted’ to see a new station built between Horsham and Three Bridges, but would also need to close one to stop journey times growing too long, with Faygate previously indicated as the likely casualty.

But in an email exchange seen by the County Times, Conservative councillor Christian Mitchell told Mrs Vickers: “For if HDC is shown to have actively supported the station at Kilnwood Vale and now to table a Motion to ‘rat’ on that position and support a station in the alternative would be quite unacceptable.

“And that is quite apart from the fact that 100 per cent of services cannot be guaranteed at Littlehaven Halt with an additional parkway station.”

In response Mrs Vickers said she would be asking Network Rail for a commitment to not downgrade services at Littlehaven if a parkway station goes ahead.

A spokesman for the council said: “In 2009, along with Crawley Borough Council, the council indicated support for Kilnwood Vale as the location for such a station, but as time has moved on and more houses have been planned or built, the council now believes that North of Horsham would be the best location.”

A new parkway station would be ‘highly desirable’ to serve new homes in and around Horsham, including strategic development west of Horsham, at Broadbridge Heath, Southwater, north of the town, and at Kilnwood Vale.

The authority has taken legal advice which ‘showed clearly that the district council is legally able to reassess the situation in light of the changes since 2009’.

Back in July Crawley Borough Council passed a motion backing the Kilnwood Vale station option with the support of Labour councillors, as Tory members abstained due to a ‘lack of information’.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Labour leader of CBC, said: “Given that the station was included every step of the way in the plan which Horsham DC put together, backtracking at this stage not only lets down residents in Kilnwood Vale it makes it clear they don’t consider the neighbourhood to be a part of Horsham.”

He suggested the decision could jeopardise the delivery of affordable housing planned in the final phase of the Kilnwood Vale development, which includes the railway station.

Meanwhile Michael Jones, a Labour borough and county councillor for Crawley, argued that a North Horsham station would benefit companies in the new business park far more than residents in both new developments.

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