LETTER: Political game played in secret

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We are used to ‘spin’ from Central Government, and even though this is abhorrent to most of us, it is now getting more alarming as we find local government up to the same tricks.

I am referring to councillor Vickers’ full page in the WSCT 31 October on the consultation process that followed the launching of the Planning Framework Preferred Strategy - what next?

Wouldn’t it be nice to be given a full picture, rather than selective extracts that simply support the party line?

It is fact that 97 per cent of respondents to the ‘consultancy process’ were thumbs down to the North Horsham proposals.

There is no mention of this, but she goes out of her way to elaborate that a majority of the letters still to be processed as being of a standard format with additional comments, intimating they are unimportant.

Surely this is unacceptable to all those who took the trouble to express a view.

Notwithstanding this councillor Vickers fails to mention the quality of the responses already on the website and the reasoned statements made by so many, and including very professional arguments put forward by the likes of the Horsham Society, The RAGE group and the group led by Dr G. Richardson.

On North Horsham, councillor Vickers quotes four bullet points describing the main issues raised.

One of these quotes ‘lack of healthcare facilities’ when the real issue is ‘no hospital’.

Why not say this? There is no mention of breaking the Horsham District Council pledge that the A264 would be the northern boundary of Horsham, nor the absolute concern of another step towards coalescence of Horsham and Crawley.

Yet these issues have been expressed in abundance.

Communication of the consultancy process has been abysmal, other than minor efforts using social media, and an article near the back of Horsham District News - Autumn 2013.

If you did not subscribe to the WSCT then it is likely you are unaware of the process.

Most of the communication has been carried out by resident groups such as RAGE and SAVE HORSHAM.

We are now told that the outcomes from the consultancy process will be discussed at a full council meeting in December. This will be far removed from the requests made for a public town meeting which was refused.

A council meeting only allows a few slots of a couple of minutes for the public, with the council members then debating without further permitted involvement from the public.

The hierarchy of HDC has failed to engage on this preferred strategy with the public. It is regrettable that they draw comparison with past and current developments such as West of Horsham, when the council was proactive in its communication.

On that occasion HDC staff stood outside of Tesco’s all day for five days handing out leaflets and engaging with the public.

When compared with numerous other local authorities, who are following similar processes, this time HDC’s communication doesn’t even make the league table.

We are told that if the preferred strategy becomes the Proposed Submission it will be published for a six week period for representations, BUT, even then only ‘minor amendments’ [councillor Vickers’ words, not mine] will be possible.

Doesn’t this suggest a fait accompli with consultation once again just a process with no effect.

Basically whatever is published at the Submission stage will go to the Planning Inspectorate.

Of course all of this is a political game played out behind closed doors. No wonder only 20 per cent chose to vote at recent by-elections.

Councillor Vickers will no doubt be granted another full page to answer these comments.

BRIAN JOHNSON

Langhurstwood Road, Horsham