LETTER: Minister must take action

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Readers may be interested in a recent quote from the leader of Telford Council (in Planning Weekly) that, ‘When we consider planning applications which meet national and local policy, we have to accept them. To do otherwise, would be like betting (public money) on a three legged donkey’.

However, where a decision on a planning application is marginal, we must surely continue to hope that the unelected Planning Inspectorate (PI) can be influenced by the judgement of local authorities. If not, then we might as well dispense with development control meetings.

We are in this position largely because local authorities cannot meet the untenable housing targets that have been imposed on them, based on population growth, leaving the PI with an excuse to permit speculative (‘sustainable’) development on greenfield sites. Indeed, the PI declined to adopt 44 out of 50 Local Plans earlier this year.

In Horsham District the Local Plan is expected to include a 20 year target of around 600 dwellings pa, leaving North Horsham more vulnerable than it otherwise would have been.

Whilst many believe that we must accept this, despite the fact that only 430 houses pa have been built on average in the District over the past ten years, I believe that we should not simply roll over.

So, I challenged Planning Minister Nick Boles on the issue at a meeting in September and in his reply he emphasised that Local Plans are expected to take ‘full account of market and economic signals’, opening up the way to a simple and equitable solution, which I proposed in a letter dated 11th December.

The proposal is that each Local Plan should include two 20 year targets, one theoretical projection based on population growth, with a second target duly adjusted for relevant market and economic projections.

Thus, LAs would identify sites based on the first target, but their backlogs would be assessed against the second (GDP adjusted) target.

If this issue is not resolved, then we will continue to remain behind the (population) curve and the five year land supply for many years and we will always be playing catch-up. We cannot simply wash our hands of the problem by blaming the Coalition Government.

The stakes are high and if the Minister has any interest at all in local democracy and on the impact of development on the countryside, then he must surely take decisive action. I encourage all of those who share these concerns to ask their MP to support the proposal.

ROGER ARTHUR

(UKIP) Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury ward, North Street, Horsham