LETTER: Implications of rule changes

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Your paper reported (7.1.16, p2) that Horsham District Council has ‘Plans to call in applications due to costs’.

You noted how HDC has lost appeals against its planning committees’ decisions to turn down developers’ planning applications. It was reported that the actual and likely total costs to HDC since 2014/15 would be around £700,000.

It is worth looking in a bit more detail at what actually happened. There are in fact two planning committees (North and South).

Cllr Vickers (Con, Southwater) as Chief Planner for the district, sits on both. The Southern committee comprises all members from the southern wards.

The Northern committee is made up of all members from the northern wards. The adverse costs against HDC in 2014/15 were a consequence of the Southern planning committee’s decisions to appeal developments at Storrington and Henfield.

In the former for example the planning inspector ruled that HDC had acted unreasonably and was ordered to pay £180,000 of costs.

It is now reported that ‘Under the [new] proposals Full Council would determine planning applications referred to it if the director of planning, economic development and property [Mr C Lyons] believed one of the planning committees was minded to make a decision that would have ‘significant cost implications’.

Mr Lyons is unelected of course so such a change in procedure would hardly be ‘democratic’.

This change would miss out the stage of consideration by planning south and north – councillors representing wards most affected by proposals.

Cllr Vickers is reported as saying ‘We have a duty... not to spend money on appeals we do not need to be fighting’.

How Cllr Vickers (Southwater) can make such a statement when, as cabinet member for planning, she has presided over the decisions to go to appeal weak cases (as identified by planning inspectors and High Court judges) for projects in southern wards.

Yet if/when Liberty put in their long awaited planning application to develop North Horsham – with all its flaws – Cllr Vickers will (with the help of her leader Cllr Dawe of course) stop it going to Planning Committee North (where the majority of the councillors oppose the project) and take it straight to the full council where they know they have a slight majority in favour of the North Horsham development proposed by Liberty.

Cllrs Dawe and Vickers will have changed the rules to ensure that they get their own way on the awaited planning application from Liberty.

VALERIE WISE

Owlscastle Close,

Horsham

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