LETTER: Meeting in public is now required

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No matter that I loathe and despise the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and I have every reason to, unfortunately it is the law of this land and as such must be adhered to; if only for the sake of good order in our society – I trust in that we all are agreed.

In the coming months Liberty Trust will file their controversial North of Horsham planning application, whilst as a WSCC member I will continue the fight for the correct highway infrastructure to ensure proper traffic flows and safety for pedestrians and cyclists; what is actually achieved will be governed by that one-sided law the NPPF – no matter how unfair and inadequate you and I believe that outcome to be.

Before the newly-elected Members of Development Control (North) Committee sit in deliberation upon that application, I for one would like to see Horsham District Council organise a member meeting in public (not a public meeting); to give those newly elected and in a good few cases inexperienced members an opportunity to put questions to and otherwise grill one or two persons expert in the field of current planning law.

I believe it extremely important that such a meeting is held in public, in order that we the residents have the opportunity to hear at first-hand the range, scope and quality of questions put to those legal experts – and then to hear and appreciate the legal responses given.

After all, the outcome of any future planning meeting must take into account and rely solely upon what is and what is not possible under planning law (the NPPF); what must be avoided is an inappropriate decision being made based solely upon an irrational and emotive dislike of the scheme.

Falling foul of the law will certainly lead to an appeal, an appeal that HDC would lose if the law is not followed to its vicious letter, an appeal that would see truly massive costs awarded against the council (that in the end is you and me the taxpayer) and with that loss upon appeal potentially see millions of pounds of community benefit lost.

Over the last two years much has been said about the need for freedom of speech and openness of local government, whilst I have seen no issue with how the last administration was led or how it acted; such a meeting would give residents a real opportunity to see and hear democracy in action.

Residents in turn would have the opportunity to see at first-hand just how difficult life can be for an elected member having to operate within current planning laws.

Let us see if HDC are willing to permit and organise such a meeting – only time will tell.

I am copying this letter to Tom Crowley, the chief executive of HDC.

JIM RAE

Independent West Sussex County Council member for Roffey divisions, County Hall, Chichester

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