THESE are my personal views and opinions. As one who was against Horsham District Council’s Interim Statement, and therefore is obviously from Mars, I take issue with Mr Spurrier (County Times letters, July 21).
HDC did not make a positive case for the Interim Statement (IS) and failed to argue the need for housing development in Billingshurst, especially on wholly greenfield sites.
A district-wide problem exists and it should have been for HDC to find a district wide solution and not try to correct its failure to show a five-year land supply by concentrating large-scale development in just two areas. Even the most naïve of Billingshurst residents had worked out that the IS was developer-led.
‘Today, Billingshurst is dead on its feet’ is the quote from Mr Spurrier - so the phoenix will rise from the ashes if the developers of the greenfield sites pay for a feasibility study for Jengers Mead? I hardly think so.
Jengers Mead, the ‘shameful shopping slum’ (quote) has several landlords, a fact well-known by the Chamber of Commerce, and includes the car park bought by an astute businessman. I have no love for the clamping tactics used to decimate the ‘shopping experience’ in Jengers Mead but years and months of talking with the landlord of the car park seems to have achieved... what?
The Interim Statement would have given another planned 500-600 houses on greenfield sites and still Jengers Mead would ‘be a shameful shopping slum’ in Mr Spurrier’s words.
With over 1,000 houses built in the past ten years what has been achieved for the village centre - a bypass, an expensive revamp of the High Street but still a heavy loss of retail outlets.
Planned development in Billingshurst over the past ten years, all permitted by the planning authority (HDC), has not solved Billingshurst’s problems but exacerbated them.
This seems to have gone unnoticed in Mr Spurrier’s orbit but certainly not mine, albeit mine could be a Martian orbit!
‘A plan for employment’ (another quote) - hasn’t unemployment risen locally and nationally under the present economic climate? I certainly know people in the district who have lost their jobs. So where were all the jobs coming from to employ those who would occupy the planned development?
There was practically no mention of employment in the IS, was that because there was no prospect of employment in Billingshurst?
Surveys undertaken on behalf of the consortium of developers demonstrated that there was sufficient employment space available to meet the employment needs generated by 500 houses, but we have heard nothing from either HDC or the consortium as to how to create the potential employers to fill that space.
The Chamber of Commerce supported the IS with some provisos but no mention of where potential employers were coming from either. Horsham, like Billingshurst, has had employers moving out, closing down or moving to smaller premises.
Where is the proof that another 500-600 houses would help the growth of the Billingshurst economy or create employment opportunities and make it sustainable? It is, after all, the Category 1 settlement in the Horsham area furthest from the Gatwick Diamond.
‘With planned development we would have got the best possible deal out of the developers... not shambolic development with disparate housing projects cropping up in fields all over the place’ (quote from Mr Spurrier).
Perhaps he forgets that the developers have options or own all the ‘greenfield sites’ which were included in the Interim Statement with not a brownfield site amongst them.
At the moment this land is part of the ‘surrounding countryside’ which Mr Spurrier wants to turn into a messy clump of planned dormitory development under the IS.
He should note that ‘planned messy clumps’ also look their best when viewed from a rear view mirror; preferably well away from Billingshurst until there is real evidence that his favoured ‘planned messy clumps’ will give our village a real sustainable future and not just be a dormitory for the Gatwick Diamond.
LESLEY WILDING (Mrs)