Horsham town deserves more than just a happy new year - it needs the security of a safe and lasting legacy for everything it represents.
Right from the start it was pretty obvious that a Cabinet system at Horsham District Council was a recipe for troubled times – even those of us who feared the worst probably never dreamt that the system would degenerate so far into secret meetings, political manoeuvring and questionable decisions.
The whole atmosphere is tarnished by a lack of properly shared information and genuine consultation. In recent times disturbing developments have changed many people’s perception of local consensus at the district council. It is time to stop the nonsense and restore confidence.
When power is in the hands of an elite few then questionable and unpopular decisions are more likely to happen - poor decisions can do a great deal of damage.
The current system, given the balance of District-wide representation, means that Horsham town can be disadvantaged or even discriminated against. The expectations of communities in the north of Horsham District can too easily be out-voted.
The Cabinet administration has an absolute right to do many things but just because it ‘can’ does not mean that its power ‘should’ be brought to bear in controversial circumstances. Owing to a peculiar anomaly following from the merger of the Urban and Rural Councils in the 1970s the unparished area of Horsham town is not administered in the same way as the rest of the District.
All other areas have legally constituted parish councils whereas the unparished area of Horsham is dependent on the goodwill or otherwise of Horsham District Council as a whole. A prestigious town the size of Horsham is worthy of an official Town Council or full parish council. Currently it is struggling to be heard at HDC.
The Cabinet system would not be ideal even if the entire balance of elected power was turned on its head. Somewhere would be likely to lose out! When it comes to local government there is no substitute for genuine co-operation and true commitment to ‘working together.’ More than anything this is what I have always hoped to see. Let’s have less politics and less power struggles and more attention on getting things right.
What we need is open and honest deliberations where elected representatives and local people take a lead in the decision making processes. The needs of each and every community matter; responsibilities should be carried in a fair and honourable way without any single locality being expected to carry an overwhelming burden which could change the very nature of everything it stands for.
My deepest concern is that Horsham town and its associated satellites appear to be the main target to be altered beyond recognition. This has been obvious for some time but the recently approved controversial HDPF has brought the situation clearly into focus. The plan crams development into North Horsham eating into green fields, bringing Horsham closer to Crawley, adding a large business park and all without tackling the significant shortfall in infrastructure that is already lacking for the town.
The independent Inspector is not likely to be viewing the document in the same way that people with local knowledge will assess it. We have to wait for the final conclusions until April. The thought of enormous change that could destroy the individuality of my home town, its green spaces and the countryside I love, simply fills me with dread! Enough has been lost. The future matters – it is the legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren.
As a New Year starts I remain resolute and committed in my aspirations for Horsham town and Horsham District; growth and progress need to offer outstanding opportunities with totally appropriate outcomes which will enhance the quality of our surroundings and the lives of everyone who lives or works here in Horsham or within the District. What we are seeing is single-minded planning for the future - plans that appear to introduce more problems than they solve whilst falling short of what is essential.
We need the New Year to bring a fresh approach before it is too late.
(LDem) Horsham district councillor for Trafalgar ward, North Street, Horsham