LETTER: Building bonanza on green fields

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Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.

‘Planning Madness’ was the slogan used in the Daily Telegraph and indeed the WSCT when, in the dying days of the last Labour government, plans were being made for many massive housing developments in South East England to provide ‘much needed’ homes for the next generation, our children and grandchildren.

For that reason many of us were relieved when the Tory-led coalition government was elected in 2010 with the promise that this policy will be reviewed and concentration for future developments will be focused on brownfield sites and of course ‘localism’ was the new buzzword.

Yes, more houses were needed, but in the future the views of the local populations would weigh heavily when considering planning permission for local developments.

The name of the game was not to urbanise our countryside but to consider very carefully sensible additions to our housing stock with the emphasis on providing homes for young people who had hopes buying their own property.

Infrastructure would be provided to ensure that roads, schools, medical facilities and utilities would be in place and that building on land with potential for flooding would be refused.

That was the new message.

Well we have seen what has happened in Horsham area so far.

Localism has been overtaken by the appointment of planning inspectors answerable only to central government who can over-rule any local objections (who often reflect local knowledge and potential problems), and the free for all, resulting in a bonanza for property developers and land owners is well under way with major developments on greenfield sites, many of which are prone to flooding but are conveniently, not officially designated as floodplains.

Low-cost properties for first time buyers are set at an absolute minimum and we see the plans for three, four and five bedroom homes set on very modest plots (I really wonder how many of these, using new construction methods will outlive their mortgages) set to attract buyers who may have made a killing selling their modest properties in heavily built-up areas who may want a larger home ‘in the country’.

Already a drive along the main roads in rush hours between say, Horsham and Crawley or indeed any of our major conurbations, is becoming a nightmare.

Doctor appointments stretch far into the future and hospital provision and transport links to those hospitals are severely strained.

Schooling provision is already stretched and goodness knows what it may be like on the commuter trains.

Specifically in Southwater, the first stage of major building is due to begin at any moment.

An iconic mature oak is to be felled, a fact our planning department airily informed a recent detailed planning meeting, was approved at outline stage a long time ago when understandably, the fate of a single tree was not really focused on.

The new residential roads will not be wide enough to accommodate buses and as a consequence many of the new residents will be forced to take up a substantial walk to the nearest bus stop or will be tempted to use their cars.

At least one of the fields that will be built on, defined as non-floodplain, is currently a wellie-sucking bog and is almost certainly the burial site of cattle slaughtered during the last outbreak of anthrax in this area.

It is also the site of the former railway cutting which was used in the 1970s as an uncontrolled dump.

This was in the days of the old Horsham Rural Council and any records made have been lost, so goodness knows what will be unearthed during construction.

Finally, I think it is a great shame that many of those, including many councillors, who rightly, object to North Horsham development, have suggested that all of the proposed housing there should be resited in Southwater, presumably on the site of what may become the threatened farm. Shame on them. This is the ultimate NIMBYISM.

As for our grandchildren being brought up in a world of limited resources in an atmosphere of more and more consumerism and growth, against the prospect of climate change, flooding and famine...

Please refer back to my opening sentence.

B.W. LAFLIN

Woodfield, Southwater

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