In a recent edition of the West Sussex County Times it was reported that in Horsham ‘increasing numbers of homeless families are being placed in temporary accommodation’ and that ‘the situation reflects that in other parts of the country where a steady decline in affordable housing has seen the number of households local authorities have been forced to place in temporary accommodation rise dramatically’ (WSCT: 23 Mar 17).
In February, it was reported in national news media that the Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell MP, had admitted that the Government’s track record on building new affordable homes was ‘embarrassing’ and ‘shockingly bad’.
Meanwhile, the Liberty Property Trust, having secured the allocation of a vast tract of countryside North of Horsham in the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF), as a strategic site for the building of 2,750 houses and a business park, is offering in its outline planning application for the site only 18 per cent affordable homes, not the 35 per cent required by the HDPF (Letter, P. Kornycky WSCT 6 Apr 17; WSCT report 23 Mar 17).
In their application, the Trust seeks to justify their ‘offer’ by claiming erroneously that the HDPF requirement for 35 per cent is a ‘proposal’ when in reality the 35 per cent is a requirement stipulated in an adopted local plan, not a ‘proposal’.
When Horsham district councillors meet on 28 April to consider and decide the Trust’s application, they should recall that Mr Salter, the Planning Inspector who examined the HDPF, having been advised that the development would deliver 35 per cent affordable housing, approved the inclusion of North of Horsham as a strategic site, with that understanding.
It remains to be seen whether councillors will uphold HDPF policy on affordable housing and insist that the HDPF requirement for 35 per cent affordable homes be met.
If not, a vast tract of irreplaceable and beautiful countryside will be concreted over for the financial benefit of the Trust’s investors, without meeting as it should the District’s need for affordable homes.
This would be ‘shockingly bad’ and a shameful dereliction of duty by the council. It would also set a precedent for other developers to exploit.
Dr R.F. Smith
For Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Sussex (Horsham District), Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield
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