LETTER: Unsatisfactory consultation

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As observed amongst the raft of comments and representations now on the Horsham District Council Development Planning internet site, the whole ‘consultation’ for the Brinsbury Fields’ site, North Heath: Harwoods and Chichester College built development applications has, for its neighbours, despite the claims of the two applicant parties (Harwoods and Chichester College), been utterly underwhelming.

Nor has Horsham District Council helped itself and its reputation in these parts by its own poor notification, especially to directly-affected local residents in what is, even by its own formal acknowledgment, a major built development.

In fact the whole sorry saga has been characterised to date by a distinct lack of effective and timely public information and communication - a deeply disappointing and unsatisfactory democratic situation.

Whatever views they may take of this brace of big applications, the fact remains that those living within a close radius of the site remained unaware of what was being planned behind the scenes until word inevitably got out via local informal sources.

The hurried college ‘public consultation’ held soon after was nominal and more a presentation of a fait accompli.

All other consultations were with parish/district council officers, ‘stakeholders’ or ‘interested parties’. Local neighbour residents and businesses were not included.

Whilst it may be argued that the present development planning process (The National Planning Policy Framework [NPPF]) is peppered with drafting loopholes and provides a feeding ground for speculative developers to land bank and to cash in on the housing crisis and so is intrinsically undemocratic, even its provisions (paragraphs 188-191 - referring to the pre-consultation of such schemes) recommend full public engagement, but this advice was followed here only in respect of the narrow range of so-called ‘representative’ bodies.

This is a democratic deficit in any terms and certainly betrays a suspected lack of real sincerity or commitment towards genuine local consultation by all the parties involved.

P.A. Rippingham

Adversane Lane, Adversane

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