It was with incredulity that I read the piece by councillor Roger Paterson, Horsham District Council cabinet member responsible for the local economy (‘Closure ‘detrimental’ to economy’, County Times November 7).
Despite facts to the contrary Mr Paterson is still defending the indefensible development proposal on green fields north of the A264. Mr Paterson says ‘We are desperately short of employment land’. No Mr Paterson, we are not. He says ‘Even if part of the [Novartis] site is used for employment it would still not be enough’. This is not correct. And why only use part of it?
Here’s why - there’s more high-spec commercial / industrial space on the main Novartis site alone than even the 500,000sq ft white elephant proposed by councillors Paterson, Dawe, Vickers, Croft and Rae for north of Horsham.
Further, even before the Novartis announcement Horsham District Council had admitted that there is 250,000 sq ft of empty commercial premises within the district. In addition, HDC has not responded to requests made since September to identify the amount of brownfield sites.
I agree we want more employment for people who live in the district – but this is more likely to be provided by small to medium sized companies on dispersed sites within the area. Mr Paterson appears to recognise this, saying ‘However, decisions such as this highlight how unpredictable future employment has become, particularly for international companies making remote decisions based on global demand, without regard to the effect on local employment or local economies’.
Mr Paterson did not mention that big business values closer connections to Gatwick and London than Horsham can provide, as seen in Nestle relocation from East Croydon to Gatwick. He has been told so before, in reports for the Gatwick Diamond partnership that HDC partly paid for. Yet he simply claims that ‘[Liberty] is one of the best placed developers to attract business’ – is he expecting a miracle that defies this truth?
Nor does Mr Paterson offer any thoughts on how to revitalise Horsham town centre as an area for employment, to bring people into the town who will then spend in its shops and cafes at lunchtime – surely he isn’t going to walk away from this, the real challenge?
Primrose Copse, Horsham