LETTER: No recurrence of ‘botched’ West of Horsham’ deal

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Whether you are for or against ‘North of Horsham’, it is surely agreed that any such massive proposed strategic development must contribute fully and fairly to Horsham’s creaking infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the early signs are most worrying. In March 2014 HDC commissioned a viability assessment for the North Horsham site as part of its need to evaluate rates for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). The figures produced showed this site funding total planning obligations (i.e. Section 106 plus CIL) of almost £66m.

Fast forward just eight months to the Hearings in November 2014 and we discover that this total has reduced to £50.5m, i.e. a reduction of almost £15.5m, 23.4 per cent.

Why has this potential contribution to the district’s infrastructure reduced by so much and yet both the Developer Profit and Landowner Profit remain unchanged at approximately £100m each?

My Freedom of Information (FoI) request to obtain the breakdown of this new, vastly reduced, infrastructure contribution has been refused.

Apparently the public interest in disclosing such information is outweighed by the commercial interest in keeping it secret!

However my FoI did reveal two important pieces of information.

Firstly, the North Horsham planning obligations figure presented at the November hearings was overstated by £2m, but has (apparently) never been publicly corrected.

Secondly, these secret figures are contained in an email attachment from Liberty Property Trust UK Ltd to HDC i.e. it appears that (as expected) Liberty is indeed very much in the driving seat.

Surely it is HDC that should be determining the level of these necessary obligations, albeit with some negotiation?

What is also strange is that the ‘accepted practice’ of splitting the land value gain 50/50 between the landowners and the council seems to have been significantly skewed in favour of the landowners.

They walk away with £100m profit, whilst the council get little over half that amount. Also HDC/WSCC must use their entire amount to mitigate the immediate effects of the development rather than allocate any funds for district-wide infrastructure, as evidenced by the CIL now being NIL.

Surely HDC should be striving to get their fair share i.e. £75m on current figures based on 2,500 homes?

Why also, when in the November 2014 figures, over £12.5m of abnormal costs were included to make the land ‘sound for development’ did the infrastructure provision take a full hit, whilst the Landowner profit did not reduce by one pound. That is grossly inequitable.

We were promised that in ‘accepting’ the bitter pill of this development, a generous infrastructure deal would be struck for the residents of Horsham district.

The evidence thus far not only seems wholly contrary but is very difficult to acquire, even by painstaking use of FoI requests.

Also, as we are now discovering, ‘secrecy’ didn’t help stop the equivalent West of Horsham development negotiations giving us a stingy deal.

So this time please HDC will you learn from your mistakes and willingly put this information into the public domain and let us judge it beforehand?

PAUL KORNYCKY

Cox Green, Rudgwick

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