In October 2013 when HDC carried out a consultation on its draft strategy for housing and economic development in Horsham district, over 1,800 people submitted responses.
Cllr Mathews drew the incredible conclusion in council that if only 1,800 people in the population of our district responded that must mean the bulk of the population were content with Cllr Vickers’ housing plans.
Cllr Vickers in her piece (31.10.13) was clearly delighted only 1,800 responses had been received compared with the 3,000 representations she had received for the West of Horsham consultation.
Before both councillors leap in to gloat over the fact that in this second consultation 840 people replied so the Horsham District residents are even more behind their plans, perhaps your readers would be interested in the following:
1) The process of raising a response was made difficult. With the council’s record over the last 18 months of lack of transparency – one might be forgiven for thinking this was a deliberate ploy to put people off. Getting onto the HDC website was complex especially for those with minimal computer skills. Instructions for those using the site allowed 200 words per policy whereas those downloading the HDC three-page form (one for each policy) or writing a letter were restricted to 100 words per policy.
2) While many residents stuck to the word limitation (a time consuming process) big companies/developers/agencies (mainly in favour of the HDC plan) were allowed as many words as they wanted – and were not required to arrange their comments by policies. It was a free-for-all and this was unfair to those who tried to stick to Cllr Vicker’s rules.
3) There were other issues such as the consultation period started during school holidays and while it was supposed to be for six weeks – the time it ended was at 4pm on the final day instead of midnight meaning that residents lost that late afternoon and early evening. The ‘exhibition’ was open for limited duration, in an obscure location and manned by people who (as reported in your pages) did not give consistent answers. Genuine public consultation was hidden in a ‘cabinet meeting in public’. And so on.
4) The final figures are still not available but something like 120-plus of the 3,000-plus policy responses have been wrongly attributed by the council – usually shown in favour of the policy when clearly their written texts showed they were opposed.
Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON
Tennyson Close, Horsham