LETTER: Census reveals home truths

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Further to my letter published in the July 25 edition of the WSCT (‘Opportunistic urban sprawl’), the 2011 Census reveals some rather interesting data that reinforces the points made in my previous letter – ie the disproportionate increase in housing in the district is largely the result of fewer people living per household and the large demand for second and holiday homes from those outside the Horsham District rather than increase in population or increase in employment.

Looking at the parishes away from Horsham Town now considered in the draft HDPF document approved at the 25th July Full Council meeting as ‘Small Towns and Large Villages’, and where in the past have been targeted for taking the largest numbers of houses – namely Billingshurst, Pulborough, Southwater, Henfield and Storrington – the assertions by some at Horsham District Council can be questioned. HDC defines these parishes (note that whole parishes are named by HDC, including the areas of open countryside, rather than the individual built-up areas within) as ‘settlements with a good range of services and facilities… local employment provision, together with reasonable rail and / or bus services’.

Of these named parishes, two have a railway station and, therefore, are always considered as sustainable places to locate large development.

However, in both of these parishes – Pulborough and Billingshurst – more people actually walk to their places of work than use the railway, and the car is still by far the most popular method of travel.

In fact, in Pulborough, the same number of people use the train to get to work now than 12 years ago, and therefore the data overwhelmingly removes the argument that has been used by HDC and the Planning Inspectorate to permit the building of hundreds of new houses in the village.

A train station does not automatically make a village a ‘sustainable’ location to build.

Furthermore, certain members at HDC are adamant that new housing brings new employment, because more people will be working from home and, therefore, employing local people.

However, in every single one of the above named areas, with the exception of Storrington, the number of people working from home has decreased substantially (over 30 per cent in the case of Southwater). Storrington has seen an increase in the number of home workers, but only by three people.

Another interesting set of data extracted from the Census, is that of ‘household spaces with no usual residents’ – in other words, uninhabited or empty properties. In total in the Horsham District, there are 1,628 such properties – enough to house all those on the housing waiting list.

It is not surprising, therefore, that each of the parishes being examined in the letter has seen a large increase in uninhabited dwellings since 2001. Both Henfield and Storrington have seen a 23 per cent increase, Pulborough a 92 per cent increase and in Southwater the number of these properties have doubled.

It is also not surprising to see that three of these areas appear in the top-six highest numbers of unoccupied dwellings in the district.

Horsham Town comes in top of the list with 297 unoccupied dwellings, followed by North Horsham (155), Billingshurst (124), Storrington (107), Steyning (100) and Pulborough (92).

In addition, there is always an emphasis on people having to buy their own home in new development, and this is given as an excuse to build disproportionately large estates to ‘pay for’ a small number of so-called affordable housing.

The 2011 Census data shows that there are very few people actually buying their homes, but that there are large increases in the numbers of people renting instead. There are now 77 per cent more private-rented households in Pulborough compared to just 12 per cent more home owners; 50 per cent more private-rented households in Southwater to just three per cent more home owners; 89 per cent more private-rented in Henfield and only two per cent more home owners; 102 per cent more private-rented households in Storrington to just nine per cent more home owners; and so the trend continues.

Does this data support the arguments of the developers that large estates are needed to bring small numbers of ‘affordable’ and rented properties?

Or does the data support the long-held knowledge of the communities within the district that there is more demand for the small-scale rented-sector housing with only a little need for market housing?

MARTIN DALE

Stane Street Close, Codmore Hill, Pulborough