LETTER: Distrust of the planning system

This is an open letter to Horsham MP Francis Maude.

Despite the advent of Localism, many still doubt their ability to influence Local Plans (LPs) in relation to new house building.

Whilst the government inspectorate must pass them, many of the plans have not been approved, apparently because they do not include enough houses.

That may be because the planning inspector considers population growth as the main driving factor, when assessing an LA’s 20 year projections.

On that basis, Horsham District Council should plan for a five year backlog of 2,300 dwellings (460 pa) whilst embarking on a 20 year target of 575 pa.

Of course, developers will build no more than they can sell at a reasonable profit and it is inconceivable that an average of 1,000 dwellings pa might be built in the District over the next five years, whilst the economy is struggling to recover.

That 6,000 planning applications have already been approved is immaterial.

The fact is that LAs are expected to plan for many more houses than will be built in practice and consequently an excessive backlog is almost certain to remain.

You will know that the completion of Local Plans has been delayed by the introduction of new legislation, such as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the need for Neighbourhood Plans (NP), all of which has extended the time for which our beautiful countryside remains vulnerable to speculative development.

Also, whilst we are told that NPs will have real power, there is little evidence so far that they will have any material impact in countering inappropriate development and time will have to be allowed for reiteration between LPs and NPs.

So, many fear that ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, will continue to be

used to force through planning applications, because either a significant backlog remains, or because LP/NPs have not been completed.

If local people are denied any influence on planning decisions in that way, then it is likely to breed distrust in the planning system, whilst leaving the countryside without protection.

If you genuinely share that concern, then you will want to introduce a one year moratorium, against ‘presumption in favour’, allowing time for LP and NPs to be completed properly.

That would demonstrate that the principles of Localism are alive and well, that it is not based on a meaningless promise and I urge you to do it.

ROGER ARTHUR

(UKIP) Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury ward, North Street, Horsham