Whilst we can blame HDC for giving us a Hobson’s choice consultation in the Local Plan (HDPF) on strategic housing, we must remember that it is the Government (through the Planning Inspectorate) that has imposed on our District a requirement to ‘supply’ 16,000 more homes over a 20 year period.
As part of this we are potentially ‘stuck with’ the massive proposed development of 2,750 homes at the ‘North of Horsham’ site. There the Liberty Property Trust’s master-plan ‘features’ a total breach of Horsham’s A264 northern boundary, a gobbling up of green fields and a partial erosion of the strategic gap between Horsham and Crawley.
I recall some councillors reluctantly voting for its inclusion in the HDPF, promising us that they would thereby ensure that the community got the best possible deal. One councillor even said that he would ‘make the Developer’s pips squeak’, under the strapline ‘I don’t like it, but I’ll back it’.
So what are the current indications?
Well, we appear to be getting an unimpressive 18 per cent Affordable Homes against a policy requirement of 35 per cent. That’s 468 desperately needed Affordable Homes lost.
Also, as this site has been exempted from over £20m of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charges, we will have no contribution to ‘community infrastructure’ beyond that needed to directly support these 2,750 new homes. In simple terms, this means that even this massive development won’t in any way help fund the existing infrastructure deficiencies, self-evident throughout the District!
Finally, the council’s consultants (DSP) have recently published a report evaluating the Developers submitted ‘Viability Assessment’. Viability Assessments are complex spreadsheets showing all the financials of a project and conclude with a view as to whether a development is viable i.e. can the books be balanced. They are something of a ‘secret black art’ with (unsurprisingly) developers often producing figures to show how they cannot meet the full quota of Affordable Homes or full Community Infrastructure obligations (via S106 and/or CIL). For North of Horsham, DSP are already reporting (even with CIL set as NIL) the following shortfalls in S106 offers made by Liberty; Primary Education £4.75m; Fire and Rescue £0.25m; Bus Service £1m; Air Quality £0.5m. Didn’t this sort of thing happen before with the West of Horsham strategic developments?
I don’t know about ‘making the pips squeak’………..it seems more like we are on the verge of accepting a ‘pip squeak’ deal.
Let’s hope our District Councillors take a dim view of Affordable Homes at 50% of target and the (already) identified £6.5m underfunding of S106 (alongside NIL CIL) when they formally consider the planning application. It simply isn’t good enough.
Cox Green, Rudgwick
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