I was in the public gallery for the council meeting last Wednesday when councillors were asked to receive and vote on councillor Claire Vickers’ report on the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) and modifications to it in response to the Government Inspector’s initial findings.
Cllr Vickers repeated her mantra that if HDC do not proceed with the HDPF (which includes plans for the massive development at North Horsham), then developers would rush in to apply for indiscriminate development across the district and probably get their applications through on appeal because of the lack of a local plan.
It was with some disquiet, then, that I heard one of the councillors, Cllr Brian Donnelly who represents Pulborough and Coldwaltham, say that if the council did not accept the plan, then the district would be ‘doomed’.
He went on to say that developers were already prowling around, intent on yet more building in our district.
What concerned me particularly was that in order to illustrate the point he said there had been a knock on his front door one evening recently and on the doorstop was a developer’s representative with a plan he wished to put to the council.
The councillor said he believed other councillors had been approached in a similar manner. He himself had sent the developer away.
Perhaps I am naïve, but I found this shocking. Surely it is totally inappropriate for developers to be approaching councillors in their own homes in the hope of persuading them to support a possible development in the area.
With the national press full of reports of impropriety in public office and corruption in high places, our local councillors must be seen to be totally above reproach.
Developers approaching councillors individually in this way put reputations at risk.
Any company wishing to develop in the district should contact the planning department at the council’s offices in the appropriate fashion.
A slightly different matter which struck me during the meeting was that Cllr Donnelly, in support of the massive North Horsham development, stated it was wrong to say that the north of the district had borne most of the new development over recent years.
He said that the south had taken as much, if not more, than the north.
He cited Billingshurst as an example of a village in the south that had lots of new housing bolted on to it.
It is true to say that Billingshurst comes under Development Control Committee (South) for planning matters, but this must surely be just an administrative expedient.
Anyone looking at a map of Horsham district can see at a glance that Billingshurst is quite obviously geographically situated in the north of the district, not in the south.