LETTER: Deals are totally inadequate

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Your letters

Congratulations to the County Times and Joshua Powling’s in-depth coverage of the Scrutiny Committee meeting which considered local resident Paul Kornycky’s superb work in identifying the ‘failure’ under Cllr Claire Vickers (Horsham district’s planning supremo) and her boss, leader Cllr Ray Dawe, to secure adequate infrastructure funding from the two West of Horsham developments (19.5.16, pp16-17).

The article highlighted the absurdity of Cllr Brian O’Connell’s (Henfield) assertion that it was not up to councillors to dictate developer’s profit margins in the same way that councillors cannot ‘go down to Sainsbury’s and tell them how much to sell a bag of crisps for’ (p17).

Cllr O’Connell’s assertions about how to negotiate and make contracts will puzzle many. A contract is a legally binding voluntary agreement that is formed when one person makes an offer and the other accepts it. There may be some preliminary discussion before an offer is formally made. Such pre-contractual representations are often termed ‘invitations to treat’.

It is basic contract law that a person can go to a shop and negotiate a price with the shopkeeper on any item for sale whether it’s a bag of crisps or a £1,000 computer as prices on products are simply ‘invitations to treat’, i.e. an expression of willingness to negotiate.

A person making an ‘invitation to treat’ does not intend to be bound as soon as it is accepted by the person to whom the statement is addressed and it is for the shopkeeper to accept or reject a price offered by the customer. This is elementary contract law taught to GCSE Law students.

It is no different with developers. It most definitely is for the council to negotiate with developers to get the best community returns – and that often does mean eating into developers’ profit margins. Developers know that comes with the territory and so surely does Cllr Brian O’Connell.

Our council used to negotiate hard and very successfully with big developers and corporations.

This approach secured developer funds and commitment as part of planning agreements to such projects as the re-development of the town centre and a new school site for Tanbridge House School under the visionary leadership of Cllr Liz Kitchen and the council’s then chief executive Martin Pearson.

It all went downhill when Cllr Dawe and his cabal took over in 2012 and he gave out top cabinet jobs to Cllrs Vickers, Rowbottom, Circus, Cornell and O’Connell (past chairman and now scrutinising the people who made him chairman) whilst purging others like Cllrs Kitchen, Bailey, Burgess,Baldwin and Mitchell.

As Paul Kornycky’s excellent work shows, the present cabinet are sealing deals with developers that are totally inadequate to meet our growing local infrastructure needs.

It is not a question of ‘dictating developer’s profit margins’ rather that councillors like Mr O’Connell ensuring infrastructure funds are not pared back in order to allow developers to retain their unrealistic profit margins.

Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON

Tennyson Close, Horsham

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