LETTER: Totally at mercy of developers

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Dr Ian Thwaites is understandably concerned that should HDC’s plan – the Horsham District Planning Framework – be refused by the Planning Inspectorate, ‘the whole District would be totally at the mercy of developers’ (WSCT July 24, 2014).

However, countryside in the District is already totally at the mercy of developers. This is because Horsham District does not have a five-year housing land supply – which is hardly surprising.

The huge target of 13,000 houses set for the District by the revoked South East Plan, which continues to be enforced by the Planning Inspectorate, is excessive and the required build rate of 650 houses per year has proved unachievable. Moreover, because developers reduced build rates during the recession, a substantial shortfall of unbuilt houses has accumulated in consequence.

Unfortunately the Planning Inspectorate insists that this shortfall be added to the District’s five-year target and the requirement to build 650 houses per year has been increased by sleight of the Inspectorate’s hand to more than 1,200 houses per year.

By imposing an impossible-to-achieve target the Planning Inspectorate has enabled developers to impose development and in so doing has excluded communities and their elected representatives from effective decision making.

Should the council refuse an application the developers will appeal in full expectation that the Planning Inspector will over-ride the council, ignore the concerns of local people and approve the application.

This is inequitable and unjust and is the direct result of the Government’s tinkering with the planning system. After all, the Planning Inspectorate enforces the Government’s policies on planning - and works to Government diktat. Decision-making on planning applications is skewed in favour of developers.

Consequently the ‘golden thread’ supposedly ‘through both plan-making and decision taking’ is in reality tarnished and base – because politicians have made it so – but are in denial as is indicated by misleading statements made by the new Minister for Housing and Planning, Brandon Lewis MP.

According to the Minister ‘local people have a bigger say over where new housing goes’ and ‘are much happier to support building in their area’.

This certainly not true for Horsham District where under the present planning regime the opinions of local people on planning matters count for little.

Horsham District’s two MPs, Francis Maude and Nick Herbert must be aware of what is really happening in our District? And should intercede with the new minister on behalf of their constituents - to protect communities from predatory developers and prevent further unplanned developer-imposed development.

Doubtless Horsham District Council would be pleased to support them.

Dr R.F. SMITH

For Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Sussex-Horsham District, Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield