Once again your paper has exposed another shocking story. In ‘Liberty instructed ‘not to exaggerate’ its experience’ (5.6.14 Horsham edition) you report how a member of the public submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) complaints about the accuracy of that glossy brochure that this American company with all its resources put through letter boxes in North Horsham.
Your report states that the ASA was asked to rule over whether six claims in the brochure were: ‘misleading and could be sustained’. In fact 20 claims were initially made in the brochure and the ASA agreed to investigate six. These were:
1. ‘No other housing site in Horsham is capable of delivering this’;
2. ‘The majority of existing office space in the town is of poor quality and has been vacant because it is ageing and not fit for purpose, not because of lack of demand’;
3. ‘The majority of the land north of Horsham is currently inaccessible to the public... These areas would be opened up and made accessible to walkers and cyclists for the first time’;
4. ‘No other development in the district offers this balance’;
5. ‘Liberty Property Trust has a long and successful history of large-scale community development both in the US and UK’; and
6. ‘This ability to attract businesses and jobs for local people can be repeated in Horsham’;
Two of these were upheld by the ASA - numbers 2 and 5 - and the ASA told Liberty ‘The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Liberty Property Trust UK Ltd to ensure they held sufficient evidence to substantiate their claims in future, and that they did not exaggerate the experience of the company’.
If your readers have the time, it is worth going to the actual adjudication www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2014/6/Liberty-Property-Trust-UK-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_253398.aspx#.U48Z2HJdXh5
The ‘member of the public’ is to be congratulated for persisting with what is a time consuming and tedious process on our behalf. Because the ASA reviews against the documents presented and the strict application of their code, it is very difficult to get a technical complaint upheld. The Inspector will be interested in this adjudication.
What does it matter? Wouldn’t we expect any company to exaggerate its claims about experience when it is doing everything it can to impress?
The British answer to that is ‘no’ we would expect an honest, truthful story to the residents who will be gravely affected by this flawed scheme. A more important question for our current crop of councillors who have gone into bed with Liberty is : How can they put their trust in such a foreign company and how many more claims are being made about North Horsham development that will turn out to be unreliable?
For example, in the ASA adjudication Liberty explained that in 1989 it had entered into an agreement with Kent County Council to develop 250 dwellings and 3.8 million sq ft of business space at Kings Hill. During the subsequent 25 years Liberty applied to reduce the business space to 2 million sq ft and applied again to reduce it to 1 million sq ft. In 25 years only 0.8 million sq ft has been built (less than a quarter of the original agreed figure) and only 0.6 million occupied.
In the meantime the number of homes has gone from 250 to 2,750 and now to 3,385! Andrew Blevins, the MD of Liberty Property Trust UK Ltd, said, ‘People who have bought into Kings Hill new town project should not be surprised when it expands beyond their wishes’ (see www.thisiskent.co.uk/Residents-Kings-Hill-expect-growth/story-11995774-detail/story.html#ixzz2mjDr1lPB).
How soon before Blevins says ‘People of Horsham should not be surprised when the proposed North of Horsham development expands beyond their wishes’?
HDC can’t say they were not warned.
Tennyson Close, Horsham