LETTER: Distrust in the planning system

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Christian Mitchell’s article as to why a ‘whipped’ vote on 30th April, for the Horsham District Housing Plan, is ‘unsafe’ was both timely and informative.

Despite attempts by the West Sussex County Times to make local democracy work, it is likely that by the time this paper comes to press the ruling cabal of Horsham District Councillors will have utilised the ‘party whip’ and railroaded through a Local Housing Plan that is defective in many respects.

If this Local Housing Plan was indeed good for the people of Horsham District there should be no requirement for a Conservative Party whip in order to have this plan approved. By using the party whip our ‘political masters’ show arrogance and contempt for the people of Horsham District.

The Local Housing Plan is defective because it includes unrealistic and unachievable targets, leaving us exposed to further speculative despoliation of our countryside, courtesy of the remote and unelected Planning Inspector.

It is also flawed in the assumption that large numbers of businesses will take up the 500,000 sq ft of space allocated for business, when the evidence does not support this assumption. This large allocation of, potentially, unused space is more likely to expose our district to even more housing development - without the promised infrastructure, the promised new hospital.

At the election the Tories said it was an, ‘Invitation to Join the Government of Britain’. The Conservatives promised, ‘To give communities greater control over planning, by abolishing the power of planning inspectors to rewrite local plans’.

Horsham MP Francis Maude said, ‘If planning decisions are taken away from local people, it is likely to breed distrust in the planning system, whilst leaving the countryside without protection’.

Now, we have local MPs like Francis Maude and Nick Herbert, wringing their hands and recommending that Local and Neighbourhood Plans be completed as soon as possible, while telling us they are against concreting over our green and pleasant land.

Yet, they know Local and Neighbourhood Plans provide little protection to the countryside, while they contain unrealistic targets, while the Tories continue with unelected Planning Inspectors and while the Conservative Planning Minister advocates removing the protection provided to National Parks and believes we should build on areas of outstanding beauty rather than on brown field sites.

Local councillors like Philip Circus and Ray Dawe and local MPs like Francis Maude and Nick Herbert wonder why we feel our countryside has no protection, why we feel betrayed – why we have begun to distrust the system and them.

In 2011, the Coalition promised, under ‘Localism’, to put our elected local councillors back in charge, accountable to us, the local people, via the ballot box.

Very shortly, we will all get an opportunity to let our elected ‘representatives’ know what we think of their arrogance and party whips

PETER GRACE

Ukip Arundel and South Downs Parliamentary Candidate, Chanctonbury, Ashington