FULL REPORT: ‘Unpopular but necessary’ North Horsham scheme approved

Liberty Property Trust's latest plans for North of Horsham development SUS-160930-104412001
Liberty Property Trust's latest plans for North of Horsham development SUS-160930-104412001
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An ‘unpopular but necessary’ scheme for thousands of homes north of Horsham has been approved this week.

Liberty Property Trust’s outline application for 2,750 homes and a business park north of the A264 was approved by Horsham District Council by 26 votes to 12 with three abstentions on Monday night (May 22).

A number of councillors representing Horsham town expressed general reservations about the scheme, the low level of affordable housing provided, and highways layout changes planned for the A264 and surrounding roads.

Jonathan Dancer (Con, Roffey North) proposed to defer the application, so the council could receive an updated viability study in a bid to increase the share of affordable housing in the scheme, but this was defeated.

The application includes 18 per cent affordable housing, which includes shared ownership and affordable rent, but this is well below the council’s 35 per cent target.

Instead Liberty is proposing 30 per cent housing for local needs, 18 of which is affordable housing, with the other 12 per cent made up of private rented housing, discount market homes, and custom build units.

‘BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD’

Mr Dancer suggested the North Horsham scheme ‘could have been stopped but it has not been stopped’, and quoted Gandhi to councillors who he described as being ‘backed into a corner’: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

He continued: “I believe we are a team and I believe we are the only team that stands between our residents and this great injustice.”

This was backed by Tony Hogben (Con, Denne) who agreed it would be ‘foolish’ to refuse the application, but felt it was their ‘duty’ to get the best deal for residents. He added: “We are working with information two years out of date.”

However Brian O’Connell (Con, Henfield) replied: “We have been advised by officers this is the best we are going to get.”

Chris Lyons, director for planning, economic development and property, advised members that if they did ask for another viability report this could delay the scheme for several months and Liberty could appeal to the planning inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination.

Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), leader of the council, argued that by not approving the application they would lose the scheme’s benefits and lose control, adding: “That is not a veiled threat that is a fact. It will not stop this application.”

Meanwhile Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), cabinet member for planning and development, said: “It’s a good opportunity for us to get something that we can be proud of.”

Plans include two primary schools, land and a financial contribution towards a new secondary school, a contribution for Special Education Needs school places, early years provision and contributions towards post age 16 Sixth Form provision, a multi-use community centre, health facilities, shops, allotments, public open space, and sports and recreational facilities.

‘HOUSING BUT NOT AT ANY PRICE’

Nine public speakers started off the meeting, with Philip Ayerst, from the Horsham District Cycling Forum calling for more safer crossings of the A264, completion of the missing cycle and pedestrian link between Horsham and Crawley, and a ‘cycling plan in the wider sense of the word’ for the scheme.

Ron Bates, speaking for the Horsham Society, raised the low level of affordable housing, and feared the scheme ‘could be considered an opportunity lost to help people in housing need’, a point echoed by Labour’s Carol Hayton suggested the proposals were delivering ‘millions of profit to the landowners and developers and very little to local people’.

Ray Turner, from North Horsham Parish Council, raised concerns about the changes planned for the A264 and Langhurstwood Road, the possibility of more queuing traffic increasing air and noise pollution, the level of affordable housing, and asked why retirement or sheltered housing had not been included in the scheme.

George Sallows, from Rusper Parish Council, said that while they accepted that investment and housing was important for the community, he argued ‘it should not be at any price’.

He pointed out that by accepting the low level of affordable housing, the council could fail to meet its housing land supply targets, adding: “By doing this you are throwing open the whole of the Horsham district to a scattergun approach with proposals that do meet your affordable housing targets. You are putting at risk your whole plan by accepting what is on the table tonight.”

But Liberty’s Derek Lloyd said: “We are committed to bringing this forward in consultation with the district council, the county council, and the community to deliver the best possible development for the area.”

‘WE ARE WHERE WE ARE’

The most repeated phrase of the meeting was ‘we are where we are’, but several councillors spoke against the application.

Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West), chairman of the council, started off by quoting 19th-century poet Robert Southey: “Curses are like young chickens, they always come home to roost.”

He argued the council had refused the site in earlier core strategies and suggested the current application ‘has not been able to find a solution to ensure that this new semi-detached island community will not be detached from the main part of the town’.

He raised problems with changing the nature of the A264, the loss of ancient woodland, and added: “It [North Horsham] will be a millstone around this council’s neck forever and a day and I will have no part of it.”

Toni Bradnum (Con, Nuthurst) argued they needed to get the best for new and existing Horsham residents, adding: “I do not believe we have the best deal for affordable housing.”

Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest) questioned why there was ‘virtually nothing on the effect on Horsham town’, while David Skipp (LDem, Trafalgar), leader of the Lib Dem group, added: “I’m terribly sorry because I think this has a lot of faults and I never voted for it.”

But Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham) said: “It we refuse this application we are going to be faced with exactly that scenario that has been mentioned.

“Liberty will take it to appeal they will win and we will lose everything we have won hard fought for.”

Meanwhile Mike Morgan (Ind, Henfield) added: “We are not going to get all we like but the QC [Queen’s Counsel] believes what we have before us is a very good offer.”

Billy Greening (Con, Southwater) described the application as ‘unpopular by necessary’ as they were faced with the reality of a high demand for housing. He added: “It’s not a day for celebration, but Horsham will continue to be a wonderful place after this application has been completed.”

WORK COULD START IN SUMMER 2018

After the meeting Andrew Blevins, managing director of Liberty, said: “We are delighted that councillors backed our outline planning application last night. This decision is an important step towards realising the new homes, jobs, schools, community facilities and infrastructure that North of Horsham will provide and that is so fundamental to the future success and prosperity of the town and district.

“New developments of this scale are not straightforward and the council’s planning officers have been forensic in their assessment of the application. Councillors should be proud that Chris Lyons and his team have covered all the bases and been a real credit to the council and the community.

“All being well, we are on track for a summer 2018 start. Our focus now will be on progressing the detailed legal agreements and commitments with the district and county councils. We know that delivering infrastructure and services to support new homes and jobs is a key focus for local people, and these agreements will provide complete certainty over what North of Horsham will deliver and when.

“Importantly, our outline planning application provides the foundations for future detailed planning applications and we are committed to bringing these forward in consultation with the council and community to deliver the best possible development for the area.”

FINAL VOTE:

FOR (26): John Blackall (Con, Chanctonbury), Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West), Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury), Paul Clarke (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), Roger Clarke (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), David Coldwell (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote), Roy Cornell (Con, Roffey South), Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), Matthew French (Con, Broadbridge Heath), Billy Greening (Con, Southwater), Nigel Jupp (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley), Adrian Lee (Con, Denne), Gordon Lindsay (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley), Tim Lloyd (Con, Steyning), Paul Marshall (Con, Chantry), Mike Morgan (Ind, Henfield), Brian O’Connell (Con, Henfield), Stuart Ritchie (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham), Kate Rowbottom (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley), Jim Sanson (Con, Chantry), Ben Staines (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote), Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), Michael Willett (Con, Steyning), and Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham).

AGAINST (12): John Bailey (Con, Rudgwick), Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East), Toni Bradnum (Con, Nuthurst), Alan Britten (Con, Roffey North), Christine Costin (LDEm, Trafalgar), Jonathan Dancer (Con, Roffey North), Tony Hogben (Con, Denne), Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate), Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West), Josh Murphy (Con, Horsham Park), Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest), and David Skipp (LDem, Horsham Park).

ABSTAIN (3): Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East), John Chidlow (Con, Southwater), and David Jenkins (Con, Chanctonbury).

ABSENT (3): Leonard Crosbie (Con, Trafalgar), Connor Relleen (Ind, Horsham Park), and Simon Torn (Con, Roffey South)

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