Southwater campaign group denied chance to speak at crucial housing meeting

Karen Burgess, who tabled the motion, narrowly lost the vote tonight
Karen Burgess, who tabled the motion, narrowly lost the vote tonight

Campaign group Keep Southwater Green have today said that ‘localism and democracy were dealt a blow’ as it was denied a chance to speak at a critical council meeting.

The group said it had been excluded from having its representative speak at a critical Horsham District Council meeting regarding the village’s future.

A number of Conservative councillors are expected to attempt to shelve the proposed North Horsham development tonight (Wednesday, June 24).

A Notice of Motion will be submitted for Horsham District Council’s Full Council meeting to delete the proposed 2,500 homes north of the A264 from its local plan and allocate the housing elsewhere in the district. Under the proposed amendments the allocation west of Southwater would increase from around 600 homes to 2,500, with around 500 units included east of the A24 at Kingsfold.

A total of 17 councillors have signed the tabling of the motion, which was proposed by Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East), and seconded by Jonathan Dancer (Con, Roffey North).

Mrs Burgess said: “Jonathan and I both feel, along with a sizeable group of other councillors that this housing plan is wrong. It is our duty as local councillors to reflect what our electorate is telling us.”

Yesterday, Keep Southwater Green issued a statement which said: “Localism and democracy were dealt a blow today as the community group Keep Southwater Green was excluded from having their representative speak at a critical Horsham District Council meeting regarding the village’s future.

“The council was due to debate and vote on a proposal to switch 2,500 new homes, currently allocated within the Horsham District Planning Framework to be built in North Horsham, to Southwater. Yet HDC has decided that only eight parish councils will be allowed to give their views, and that members of the public and representatives of community groups will not be permitted to add to the debate.

“While HDC had previously confirmed that Peter Handley from Keep Southwater Green was allocated a public speaking slot, they have subsequently informed him that he now cannot take part.”

Richard Page, chairman of Keep Southwater Green, added: “That we are prevented from expressing the views of our community on this matter, which would blight our village, is beyond belief.

“Our petition against large-scale development here was signed by almost 3,000 residents. To simply propose a motion switching all development from North Horsham to Southwater, and then not allow villagers to have a say, calls into question the whole democratic process and makes a mockery of so-called Localism.”

A spokesperson for Horsham District Council said: “The subject of the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) has been comprehensively debated over a number of years and councillors have been appraised of the views of many individuals and groups of residents, including Keep Southwater Green, on many occasions.

“The council received 17 requests from members of the public to speak on the notice of motion at the Council Meeting. The rules for public speaking allow a total time of 15 minutes. In order to allow the issue to be fully debated within a reasonable timeframe by councillors, many of whom will wish to speak on the notice of motion, and also to allow public representation, the decision was taken to allow nine parish councils to speak. Parish councils are elected bodies representing the interests of their communities as a whole, so by inviting them to speak we are facilitating the broadest possible representation.”

For coverage of the outcome of the meeting visit www.wscountytimes.co.uk