Ashamed of my party’s actions

I HAVE just returned home after visiting the public exhibition of developers’ proposals to build 550 houses on land east of Billingshurst.

I had an open mind when I went in but after looking at the proposed plans and reading the accompanying literature, I came away utterly disheartened by the consortium’s plans to rip up green fields to construct these houses, and build a new access road together with proposals for funds to finance a study to ‘enhance’ Jengers Mead retail area, thereby creating the kind of infrastructure more suited to urban neighbourhoods than to village life.

Quite apart from the distress I feel that the countryside is under threat of urban invasion, there are practical issues such a development raises. These are as follows.

1. The loss of this large greenfield area creates the risk of surface water flooding into the village. Global climate changes have already altered our seasonal expectations brining long, heavy rainfalls and risks of flooding.

2. Water supply and sewage drainage for 550 houses will put an extra burden on standards of service in Billingshurst village from Southern Water if it has to cope with internal sewer flooding, low water pressure and interruptions in supply.

3. Some 550 new homes could well mean well over an extra thousand adults living in our village. Billingshurst has few employment offers so it is likely that Billingshurst will become a commuter town bringing more traffic onto the roads and further congestion not to mention increased parking space needs.

4. Such a development encourages further development if these proposals go ahead. This is what happens to change a peaceful village community into urban sprawl. Local authorities are being required by Government ‘to approve all individual proposals wherever possible’.

5. To make it easier for developers, the Government wishes to shelve existing statutory policies and regulations that protect the natural environment, with which developers must comply, drawing local authority planners attention to the Draft National Planning Policy Framework justifying these measures by claiming that the present planning system is responsible for both the recession and the relatively small number of houses now being built.

This is a ludicrous assumption. We all know the recession was the result of bankers’ unregulated lending drying up the supply of money (I, too, lost money when Northern Rock shares collapsed).

Limited mortgage lending, financial uncertainties and low employment prospects were consequences of the recession not planning policies, nor planning systems.

6. Publication of NPPF has cost legal authorities much time preparing new documents and wasted time and energy preparing publications which have had to be abandoned.

Horsham District Council has now abandoned work on the Interim Statement and is working on preparation of The Core Strategy Review with the aim of preparing a document for consultation in January 2012.

It is to be hoped that this document will take account of an environment assessment of the East of Billingshurst development proposals as directed (NPPF page 10 para 34/35) and reject the proposed housing plans put forward by the developers’ consortium.

Before we were married, my future husband and I used to live in Crawley.

We spent four years researching and looking at possible places to move to since we hated living in such a fast-moving, urban town, and we chose to move to Billingshurst in the year 2000 – almost 12 years ago – and got married in the Register Office of the old town hall in Horsham the following year.

Out of countless viewings in different counties, we chose Billingshurst for its village life, its small number of independent retail shops, its friendly people but, above all, for the green fields and ancient woodland surrounding it.

It came away from the developers’ exhibition quite sick inside at the thought that the village might become another commuter town, another Crawley with fast roads, national chain stores and vandalism.

I cannot believe that the party I helped to vote into power envisages a future of proposed new building: housing estates and built-up infrastructure entirely in the hands of the developers.

I feel ashamed that local wishes on local matters can be over-ridden in the way that these Conservative Ministers envisage.

It seems to me that the Conservative Party has done me a great disservice by not listening to so many voices of dissent about proposals of development.

UNA HARGRAVE (Mrs)

Cherry Tree Close

Billingshurst