LETTER: Alternatives are now on the table

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Councillor Rae [HDC Holbrook East] stood up at the public meeting, arranged by North Horsham Parish Council [NHPC] on 9 September 2013, and made the announcement that if Horsham District ratepayers didn’t like the only option promoted by HDC on future housing and economy [2,500 houses and half million square feet business park north of the A264], we as residents should come forward with an alternative [s].

Many residents expressed at the time, and since, that it was totally inappropriate for a councillor who was elected to represent their interests, to even promote such a suggestion when the planning resources lie within the council, and are paid for through council tax.

From councillor Rae’s recent article in the County Times [6 February] and prior to that, when for a change little has been heard from him, he remains hellbent on pushing through a flawed proposal, a proposal which had little or no support in the so-called consultancy process August-October last.

Well, now a group of councillors from Town and Broadbridge Heath [CTBH] have through their own efforts done what councillor Rae should have focused on. They have produced an alternative proposal, and NHPC is launching its own alternative option.

So, at last there are alternatives on the table.

The CTBH option [http://franceshaigh.mycouncillor.org.uk/] is very different to the councillors Dawe, Croft, Vickers, Rae plan and much of its argument and supporting evidence is based on the 2009 Core Strategy under councillor Jenkins, and which councillor Vickers ditched when she was appointed Cabinet Member for Living and Working Communities early in 2013.

Now we find that councillor Vickers has written to all parish council chairmen and clerks throughout the HDC area and appears to be trying to rubbish this alternative proposal, quote ‘Further to Frances Haigh’s [Lib Dem Horsham Park] email to you on 27 January which included a press release from a group of seven councillors on their preferred strategy I felt it important to clarify the situation. The strategy circulated by councillor Frances Haigh is not an official strategy endorsed by the HDC nor produced in any official capacity. As far as I am aware, it has not been produced with any appropriate professional expertise. There are elements of this strategy which clearly do not meet government guidance and are contrary to our evidence base’.

Here we have it in a nutshell - CONTROL - anything that goes against the wishes of the ruling group will get rubbished. We see it time and again, and it is time for change.

If I was among the CTBH who had done no more than councillor Rae asked, I would be deeply offended at councillor Vickers’ tone and insinuations.

The group never claimed to be preparing their document in an ‘official capacity’. Many conclude it is more convincing and fairer to all Horsham residents than the ruling party’s preferred strategy.

Councillor Vickers criticises this document because the CTBH had no access to professional expertise. How patronising!

It is indeed remarkable that they produced a more appealing solution than councillor Vickers and her cohorts did when considering her access to ‘professional expertise’.

Her phrase ‘contrary to HDC evidence base’ is laughable - when we have asked for the evidence upon which the Preferred Strategy was based and this has never been forthcoming.

A recent FoI on the location of a secondary school at Southwater or North Horsham revealed evidence that was quite different to the story being pushed by the quartet.

At least now there are at least two plans, and potentially three after the NHPC publication. In the past there have been alternative options on the table when crucial HDC decisions are made.

We expect, no we insist, these are taken seriously and consulted upon appropriately.

BRIAN JOHNSON

Langhurstwood Road, Horsham