LETTER: Community will be vulnerable

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This is an open letter to Brandon Lewis, Conservative MP Minister of State for Housing and Planning.

Dear Mr Lewis

You may recall the recommendation in your letter dated 30th July, ie that 20 year housing targets should be adjusted for the recent market downturn, taking account of delivery rates before and after.

Sadly Horsham District Council’s (HDC) Plan relied mainly on population demographics to establish a 20 year target of 650pa, which left the Planning Inspector (PI) to presume that HDC anticipates no market constraint.

As a result, the PI now requires HDC to increase the 20year target to at least 750 dwellings pa. That is 67 per cent higher than the 450 dpa average built between 2000/01 to 2007/08, when national GDP growth averaged three per cent pa and it includes three years with targets of over 1,000 dpa!

Since the ratio between average house price and salaries in Horsham District has risen to over 10:1 and first time buyers are approaching 40, it should be clear that such targets are totally unrealistic.

Of course local authorities can’t buck the market and make developers build. Developers carry no penalty if Plan targets are not met and will seek to improve their asset value, by getting early approval to speculative planning applications. They will then build out at a rate designed to sustain unit prices.

So because your advice relating to market adjustment was not taken, this local authority has been left with an unrealistic 20-year target. When it fails to meet that target, then it and the local community will once again be vulnerable to having their judgment over-ridden over planning applications.

Hopefully you will be able to emphasise to the PI that targets based on population demographics alone are unacceptable, that market adjustments must be made and that that is not optional. Whilst it may be late in the day for this district it might at least reduce the risk of further inappropriate development on the greensward and I urge you to instruct the PI accordingly. Many thanks.

ROGER ARTHUR

Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury and UKIP parliamentary candidate for Horsham, North Street, Horsham