Horsham District Council (HDC) in its background document in support of its existing Local Development Framework plan states: “Strategic gaps have been designated within the (Horsham) District by successive West Sussex Structure Plans since 1980.’’ (para 1.1)
It goes on to state: “They are used specifically to maintain the strategic settlement pattern of the County by seeking to resist the loss of character of individual settlements and by preventing settlement coalescence.” (para 2.1)
Interviewed on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme (20 October 2013) the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said: “A green belt is to prevent conurbations bumping into each other.”
Our Strategic Gap, or local ‘green belt’ between Horsham and Crawley, is for just that purpose, as it has been for more than 30 years.
In his fortnightly article in this paper (3 October 2013, p41) the Leader of Horsham District Council, councillor Ray Dawe, criticised those legitimately raising their concerns about the erosion of this gap.
He called for comment on the housing strategy to be ‘rational and objective’ and ‘reasoned’. From the isolated comfort of his southern ward, he enthusiastically supports more than 2,500 homes, a secondary school, 500,000 sq ft industrial park and a crematoria in this northern ‘green belt’.
Councillor Dawe went onto say that there is ‘…conjecture about a gap between Crawley and Horsham, which is not being narrowed’.
The facts are that the Strategic Gap between Horsham and Crawley is currently 2.14 miles. The development proposed by councillors Dawe and Vickers on land north of Horsham means that the existing Strategic Gap would be narrowed by a third of a mile. I calculate this to mean a reduction in the length of the gap of some 15 per cent.
Therefore the Leader of our district council made a written statement eight days before the close of the consultation in your paper which was plainly wrong. In a democracy are we not entitled to have elected counciillors giving us accurate facts? How many more ‘errors’ will we discover?
There is to be a further consultation in April/May 2014 about the council’s plan and this will allow the public to critique HDC’s consultation process. Is this another example of a flawed process?
In th autumn of 2014, the Inspector will examine the proposals in public.
Residents will be placing a copy of councillor Dawe’s article of 3 October 2013 before the Inspector drawing his attention to this inaccurate statement to the public.
Is this another example of the incompetence of this public consultation sprung on the public during the summer hoping that no one would notice? Well, councillors Dawe and Vickers – the good people of Horsham did notice and we are not the fools that you’ve taken us for!
Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON
Tennyson Close, Horsham