Your views needed on housing numbers

HORSHAM District Council is encouraging everyone to think about the housing needs for the next 20 years in their communities and to comment on planning for the future of the district.

The council’s cabinet members agreed, at their meeting on January 26 to go out to the community for consultation on the question of ‘How much housing does the Horsham District need?’

The consultation period will officially start on 10 February 10 and the cabinet agreed this will now run for an extended period until April 10.

Under the current system, the government has imposed a yearly requirement of 650 new homes per year for the district.

However, it is expected that this will shortly be revoked and under the Localism Act 2011 all local authorities must set their own housing targets.

Any housing numbers planned for the future have to be evidence based.

The council is required to look at the demand based on factors like economic growth and population changes.

To prepare for the consultation, the council has used the ‘most experienced company in this field’ to help produce a report and recommendations.

In the report – “The Locally-Generated Needs Study” - the council has considered the recommendations and arrived at four options for consultation.

Cabinet members decided the council should be open to consider other reasoned options.

The only requirement is that any suggested figure must be backed up by data and evidence.

At the end of the consultation period the results, including any alternative suggestions, will be put before an outside independent expert for comment prior to further discussion by the council.

Cabinet member for living and working communities, Ian Howard, said: “This consultation is about the extremely important subject of housing levels in the district, giving the public the opportunity to get involved at this early stage before any decisions are made by the council.

“The report has been prepared to inspire and provoke debate by both our council members and the public to tell us which level of housing we should be aiming for.

“Do we want our community and economy to be maintained with a minimal level of economic growth and job creation or do we aspire to more?

“Without a long term vision, the district will lose credibility with the government’s independent inspectors who are the final adjudicators of our plans.

“Unless we have their support we will have little control over future applications for houses and a reduced ability to gain contributions from developers towards community projects.

“Of equal importance is that the number of homes built will directly affect our provision of affordable housing and with a waiting list of over 1,000 families this is a key issue for our district.

“The sort of questions we need to ask are: Do we want our children to be able to live in the district? Do we want affordable housing and locally provided employment? Do you know someone in their older years who wants to downsize but still remain in their community? Do you know someone on the housing register still waiting for a home?

“I am specifically asking interested parties with their own suggestions of numbers to put these forward, be they more or less than those in the report.

“The only requirement is that any figure must be backed up by data, evidence and reasoned argument. We will then put this in front of an independent expert for comment.”

Comments received will be considered by the council in late spring and will be taken into account when deciding the level of housing that is required for the district.

The most effective way to find out more and make comments is through Horsham District Council’s website www.horsham.gov.uk

Alternatively, look out for the questionnaire in the council’s soon to be published ‘Horsham District News’ magazine.

There are many opportunities to get involved in planning the future of the district. The next consultation, which will include proposed sites for development and draft policies, is expected to be published this autumn.

See tomorrow’s (Thursday February 2) County Times for cabinet meeting debate on the issue.