It’s clear from reading the coverage of the planning debate over North Horsham over the past few weeks that the argument for the economic need for a 500,000 sq ft business park has been comprehensively demolished.
The plans for this huge development in North Horsham, which would substantially increase the size of our town (more than 2,500 houses, a junior and secondary school, a supermarket, a crematoria and an industrial estate and a railway station) were publicly announced at a meeting of Horsham District Council on Thursday, 25 July 2013.
In the 11 weeks that have since passed neither the leader, councillor Dawe, who writes fortnightly in your paper, nor the cabinet member Claire Vickers - despite being repeatedly asked - have been able to state which business or businesses have shown serious intent to move to their vanity project.
I find myself agreeing with the economist Harry Shutt when he stated in your columns that what will result will be a ‘white elephant’.
We are now told we must have an industrial park but isn’t this just a political ruse to build between 2,500 and 4,500 homes in the Strategic Gap between Horsham and Crawley.
In the 1990s Horsham District Council promised the town that there would be no building beyond the A264 so as to avoid coalescence of the towns of Horsham and Crawley. The A264 was to be – and currently is - the strong boundary marking the end of Horsham in the north.
That promise made to the community is now to be torn up if the cabinet has their way. The deputy leader councillor Helena Croft (Roffey North) ‘let the cat out the bag’ when speaking at public meeting on Saturday, 20 April 2013 regarding the ‘make or break meeting’ on the then hospital dream with the GP Commissioning Group (CCG).
As reported in this newspaper (25 April 2013) councillor Croft said: “One of the advantages of the North Horsham project is its deliverability. It will be very difficult to deliver this, politically, without the provision of a hospital.” (p38, columns 2 to 3). When she said this was she thinking about re-election in 2015? But now she supports the business park – will her electorate forgive her?
The hospital dream died at that CCG meeting but exactly ten weeks later in this newspaper on Thursday, 4 July 2013 – and it is noteworthy that just three weeks before that meeting of council on Thursday, 25 July 2013 - the leader of the council, councillor Ray Dawe, argued in a full page article (‘We need more houses just to stand still’, p24) alongside councillor Jim Rae (Holbrook East, ‘Communities now have a true stake in their local economies’, p25) that what we now needed was a 500,000 sq ft business and industrial park in North Horsham. Their articles on 4 July 2013 were the very first time the public had heard this argument espoused.
Councillors Dawe and Rae cannot argue, as both have attempted to do, that the pressure for an industrial park is coming from central Government.
This is because the National Planning Policy (NPPF) was published a full 16 months beforehand on 28 March 2012. This document does not say that building business parks must be at the ‘heart of local authorities’ plans as councillor Ray Dawe hopelessly argued last week in these pages.
Isn’t the truth of the matter that both the hospital project (a ‘bribe’ according to councillor Rae) and councillor Dawe’s industrial park are just smoke screens put up by our political masters so that they can meet the Government’s housing targets by building on our green fields?
Unless stopped, they will break promises made to the community more than 20 years ago?
Tennyson Close, Horsham