In your issue of 12 December you published an assessment by myself of the Horsham District Economic Development Strategy (EDS) which had been adopted by the council on 21 November.
In this article I pointed out that the document a) had been given no publicity despite its assertion that ‘Economic Development... is considered to be the most important Council priority’ and b) it lacked any clear definition of strategic objectives – either for employment or any other measurable target – or indication of the likely means of achieving these.
A month on there has still been, as far as I can determine, no pronouncement on behalf of the council about the EDS, nor any response through your columns to my assessment of it – even though this raised serious questions as to the validity of the so-called strategy (some of which had evidently been noted by councillors at the cabinet meeting of 21 November) and whether its production was a justifiable use of taxpayers’ money.
However, a clue to the council’s intentions regarding handling of the EDS was perhaps provided by a response given to a question I was allowed to put to the cabinet member responsible for planning at the council meeting of 11 December.
This asked whether councillor Vickers was aware that the Gatwick Diamond Initiative (GDI) indicates in its Local Strategic Statement that it foresees no significant need for new employment space (such as that proposed for North Horsham), particularly outside the Redhill - Crawley corridor.
In reply councillor Vickers stated that GDI management had expressed support for the North Horsham business park proposal – even though this is clearly in direct conflict with its own published strategic statement.
Hence we may infer that the main tactic being adopted in relation to the EDS is, first and foremost, to keep as quiet as possible about it, hoping that it will only need to be mentioned, if at all, in the event that the planning inspector requires them to show they have an economic strategy - in compliance with the National Planning Policy Framework - justifying their proposals for a business park under the broader Draft Preferred Strategy. However, if publicly challenged on the EDS’ specific weaknesses, the drill is to continue insisting that the emperor is wearing clothes in the face of all evidence to the contrary.
This approach seems also to be exemplified by council leader Ray Dawe in his column in your latest issue (9 January). Not for the first time councillor Dawe states, quite wrongly, that government policy requires the council to have ‘a plan for growth and jobs’. If he really believed this one might expect him at least to trumpet the newly minted Economic Development Strategy as a demonstration of the council’s commitment to fulfilling this requirement.
Perhaps his failure even to mention it shows he accepts that, as suggested in my article of 12 December, the EDS can hardly be described as a strategy at all and that its so-called Action Plan lacks any real substance or indication of how growth is to be achieved. Meanwhile he persists in his apparent belief that building houses and a new business park for which there is no identifiable demand amounts to some kind of strategy for jobs and growth, a claim supported neither by the EDS nor any rational economic analysis.
Allingham Gardens, Horsham