Faced with repeated well-argued criticisms of the Draft Preferred Strategy (DPS) – including their proposals for a large new business park north of Horsham – the council leadership, as represented by Cllrs Dawe, Rae and Vickers, maintain a blank refusal to engage with the specific points raised by their opponents. Rather they just repeat the same misleading statements as before.
Nowhere is this deplorable attitude more evident than in their tendency to try and cite the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a reason why their proposals are the only tenable option while all alternatives must fail, as exemplified by Cllr Vickers’ letter in your issue of 20 Feb. In this she states that the alternatives fail because they ‘do not proactively drive and support sufficient job creation and economic growth’. This argument in support of the DPS as it stands, though constantly repeated by Cllr Vickers and her colleagues, seems as bizarre as ever in that:
a) The Strategy document contains no mention of targets for either economic growth or job creation, let alone any indication of how the strategy might assist achieving any such goals. Rather the document suggests considerable satisfaction at the current low level of unemployment in the district (para 5.2). The council’s Economic Development Strategy – still strangely unmentioned by Cllr Vickers and her colleagues since it was adopted in November – suffers from the same deficiency. Hence if the alternative strategies now on the table would fail to pass the inspector’s scrutiny on those grounds then so would the DPS itself.
b) Although it is clear from the NPPF that it is the government’s policy that the planning system should be supportive of growth at national level, nowhere does it actually state that every council plan must promote economic growth and job creation – as opposed to ‘sustainable economic development’ (para 17) – defined by the five guiding principles of ‘living within the planet’s environmental limits; ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; achieving a sustainableeconomy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly’.
Based on these criteria many in this district would surely agree that targeting high levels of growth and job creation is more appropriate in more deprived parts of the country.
What the NPPF does require of councils, as correctly noted by Jim Rae in your issue of 6 Feb, is to ensure that ‘sufficient land of the right type is available in the right places and at the right time to support growth and innovation’(para. 7).
But the clear implication is that they must not provide the wrong type of land at the wrong place and time – which is what development of the proposed North Horsham business park would clearly amount to under prevailing market conditions.
If our council leaders really wish to convince us that they are acting in the best interests of the community then they should at last be prepared to debate the issues raised by the DPS and the proposed alternatives in an open public meeting. It’s high time.
Tennyson Close, Horsham