In an idle moment I decided to have a look at the agenda and accompanying papers for Horsham District Council’s Cabinet meeting that took place on 28th January.
There was a lot to take in; in fact there were 144 pages of the stuff.
A lot of the information concerned the leadership’s ‘vision’ for the future of Horsham district, and in particular Horsham town and the surrounding area.
Priorities were set out and I was particularly keen to see if there were plans for providing the necessary infrastructure to support all the new developments that are springing up here, there and apparently everywhere in the north of the district.
The West of Horsham developments near Broadbridge Heath and the urbanisation planned for North Horsham alone count for over 5,000 new homes in close proximity to the town.
Then, of course, there are all those relatively smaller developments and ‘infillings’ dotted about the place.
I’m afraid I found little evidence of actual plans for major infrastructure provision. There are plenty of pious hopes for improved transport, education, health and employment in the future, but precious little factual information about how these goodies are actually going to be delivered and financed.
Still, I’m sure they’ve got it covered. Or have they? Remember the £14 million infrastructure black hole for the West of Horsham?
Let’s take transport first - dickering about with roundabouts and footbridges over major roads is really not going to cut the mustard when it comes to dealing with the huge impact all the additional traffic is going to have on roads in the area.
As a prime example I would cite the A24 from Great Daux roundabout up to Capel. Why are there no plans to upgrade this stretch of road from a dangerously narrow and twisting one - little better than a country lane – into a dual carriageway to allow traffic to move more easily between Horsham and London?
Much was made of the prospect of a new railway station at North Horsham and the benefits it would bring, but this is a problem area because there’s the thorny question of whether a new station should be built at North Horsham or Kilnwood Vale. It’s for the Secretary of State for Transport to decide on that – not the council.
Education was another priority in the cabinet papers mix.
I quote ‘A new secondary school is currently planned in North of Horsham’.
Actually the American developers Liberty Property Trust have only agreed to provide ‘a site for a secondary school’.
I’m betting this means they will just leave an area of bare land somewhere on the development and leave someone else to figure out who is going to pay for building and equipping the school. (Maybe the council hopes a private company will step forward to fund the school which would then, presumably, become fee-paying).
Next up: Health. I quote, ‘The priority is to address the requirement for Primary Health Care facilities to match population and housing growth’.
Well, of course, we all hope the growing need will be addressed, but in the light of the actual evidence of a looming GP crisis in the area, how on earth does the council think it is going to conjure up more front line medical staff to cope with the extra demands on services?
The council itself admits it was unable to deliver the promised new health centre to serve the West of Horsham development.
It says, ‘Lessons are to be learnt from this experience’. Let’s hope so. And while we’re on the subject of health provision, let’s not forget the lack of Accident and Emergency care in the area. Heaven help anyone in future who needs to be rushed (through traffic congestion) to Redhill for emergency treatment.
Last up – employment. The council hopes to attract 5,000 jobs to the area. Good luck with that. Companies are moving out of the area and leaving empty office space (which is being turned into residential development).
Why would companies flock to Horsham when it will probably become one large traffic-congested area with little in the way of new facilities and infrastructure to support its ever-increasing population?
Let’s hope the full council will scrutinise these papers very carefully when they come up for consideration at their meeting on 24th February.
Dorking Road, Warnham
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make our website your homepage at www.wscountytimes.co.uk
2 Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wscountytimes
3 Follow us on Twitter @wscountytimes
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!
The County Times – always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.