LETTER: No mystery and no conspiracy

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In his letter to the WSCT headlined ‘Shared school for Crawsham’ (WSCT 30.1.14) Dr Geoffrey Richardson attempts to argue that WSCC is of the opinion that there is an established and accepted need for a secondary school in Southwater and that this in turn justifies a return to the idea that there should be 2,750 new houses built in Southwater.

His argument is based upon incorrect information.

In December 2012 (the email he quotes from the Director of Learning was in April 2012) the Cabinet Member of WSCC with responsibility for Education, Peter Griffiths, made a public statement, printed by your newspaper, that there was no current ‘established need’ for a secondary school in Southwater.

Such need would only arise if Southwater was to be the site of a development of several thousand new houses. It was confirmed in April 2013 that this was still the WSCC position.

In 2009 when Berkeley Homes first put forward their proposals for development in Southwater there was talk of 2,750 houses but this number was never an accepted part of HDC policy and was never formally presented to the public. A number of about 550 houses was actually put forward by the developer with HDC approval in 2010.

Keep Southwater Green always recognised and alerted everyone to the fact that, if granted permission for an initial 550 houses, the developer would come back in the very near future with another application for many more.

This was never denied either by HDC or Berkeleys. The village almost unanimously opposed the application which was none the less submitted in ‘outline’ form for consideration by the planning authority in 2011.

It never came to a hearing. It had to be withdrawn by Berkeley’s in July 2012; the upgrading by English Heritage of Great House Farmhouse to the very important status of Grade 2* and many other objections, both from within HDC and from the public, made it unviable.

In the autumn of 2012 it became apparent that councillor Howard’s preferred planning strategy (which included 550 in Southwater and not 2,750) would not be accepted by his fellow councillors and the planning department had to rethink.

Dr Richardson seems to imply that there was then some sort of ‘Palace Coup’ and that councillor Vickers usurped councillor Howard. This is also untrue. Councillor Howard was unable to continue in post.

The council leader - by that stage councillor Dawe - had to appoint a new Cabinet Member to assume responsibility for planning; he chose councillor Vickers.

She was asked to prepare an alternative strategy which, agree with it or not, is what she has done.

It should be noted that she has proposed for Southwater an almost identical number of houses to that proposed by councillor Howard. The difference is mainly in the situation of the development within the village.

The argument Dr Richardson uses on the financial implications of bussing pupils from Southwater to Horsham is also simplistic and incomplete.

A new secondary school, wherever it is built, will usually have in excess of 1,000 pupils. The Southwater children will not need to be bussed out – but a very similar number of children from other areas will need to be bussed in to fill the school!

There is no mystery, no conspiracy and it is an undeniable logic that wherever the major development turns out to be will probably be the sensible site for a secondary school to be built.

Dr IAN THWAITES

Keep Southwater Green, Marlhurst, Southwater