LETTER: Under attack from developers

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Adopting a development strategy such as has been adopted for North Horsham, is not a green light to developers to dump thousands and thousands of houses in our area; the strategy is there to protect, limit and control development on a site named as a strategic site around five-plus years ago.

We know we cannot say no to development, even if we wanted to – the government and its NPPF will not allow us that luxury. So we must be clever, we must name our limits, we must have control – or we will be swamped.

Adopting a stance over a second runway at Gatwick such as that adopted by the WSCC Conservative Group which includes the two vital words ‘in principle’, is designed to allow WSCC a seat at the discussion table while waiting for central government to make its decision.

That seat will allow the teasing-out of important issues, in order that over time the facts can be properly assessed; facts that will establish whether the community benefits will or will not outweigh the undoubted harm we all know will be created by a second runway.

Those that attended a recent HDC seminar on Gatwick will know I am far from convinced that benefit will ever outweigh harm – but I will wait for the facts before making my response. That does not mean I am pro or anti-development, but it does mean that I will study the evidence and listen to the arguments – only then I will decide.

Given the announced outbreak of challenges that are to be made at the Examination in Public of Horsham’s strategy, it must be clear to all that we in the north of Horsham District are under attack from developers. We know we will not get much if any protection from central government, so we must hope that HDC defends its strategy and fights-off what may well be another 7,500 dwellings that none of us want.

Given all of the above I am at a total loss as to why Frances Haigh, Lib Dem leader on Horsham District Council, should at such an early stage come out in full public support of a second runway at Gatwick, full support that will lead to the need for such highway development, housing, office, school and medical development that would make North Horsham seem but a drop in the ocean.

I understand amongst her reasons for her support is job creation, in that I commend her – after all in that she is following the dictates of the NPPF that we must have economic development at the heart of any strategy.

But where on earth does she think that development will occur, or does she not care?

Of course she cares, after all she was and I assume is still bitterly opposed to any development on the North Horsham site, even though it would have undoubtedly created employment and brought into HDC’s coffers significant sums in business rates – funds that would have mitigated against the need to raise HDC’s Council Tax significantly in the years ahead to meet the funding shortfall from central government.

Is it that she welcomes mass housing and economic development, aircraft noise and pollution, horrendous traffic problems; just so long as it all happens in someone else’s patch? Why would she adopt such double standards – oh of course – she lives in North Horsham!

But does Frances Haigh not realise that her support for a second runway at Gatwick would only make the development of North Horsham an absolute racing certainty – how can she believe anything else? Has she thought any of this through?

I presume that as the leader of the LibDem grouping at HDC her fellow LibDem councillors share her enthusiasm for the concreting-over of the north of the county?

I trust in May 2015 the voters will remember that she clearly has not weighed-up the facts before getting out her concrete mixer. She has never tried to endorse any checks and balances upon development – but she (of course) has in the past lectured those like me that have anticipated this kind of attack, adopted patience and a reasoned approach even in the face of harsh criticism.

I and others have backed the setting-up of control checks over future development to attempt to ensure our area is not swamped with planning applications – which apparently she would welcome with open arms!

JIM RAE

(Con) Horsham district councillor for Holbrook East ward and West Sussex county councillor for Roffey Division, North Street, Horsham