If Jim Rae had read my comments more carefully, he would have noted the phrase ‘and if the Davies Review recommends that there should be a second runway, we will support it’.
At the Lib Dem Conference, I called for an evidence based policy. The Davies Review is extremely thorough, taking evidence from many organisations and drawing conclusions so that they arrive at the best solution for the economy and the environment. None of us could possibly do the same exercise ourselves, so we have to trust that their recommendation is well-founded on all the evidence that they have sifted.
What Cllr Rae will be aware of, is that at the council meeting on 30th April, I expressed concern that by including the North Horsham site in the HDPF, we were weakening our negotiating position should Gatwick proceed.
Cllr Rae says that ‘we must name our limits’; the Lib Dem limit is the A264 North Horsham bypass. Building beyond here puts new residents at risk of more noise and air pollution; we should be anticipating that the runway is built and ensuring that no new housing is built within the noise envelopes of the runway, as suggested in the government’s Aviation Policy.
If the second runway does not go ahead, we are likely to have more development in the north of the district, possibly linking Horsham to Crawley. Liberty is unlikely to stop at 2,500 houses when there is such high demand for housing, while yet another developer wants to build in the A24 Kingsfold area.
Cllr Rae mentions another 7,500 homes in addition to the 13,000 in the plan. The HDPF has not yet been tested and may not protect us from this – something that will be resolved fairly soon at the Examination in Public.
If the runway does go ahead, we will still need to build the homes in the HDPF as finalised, but we will be able to negotiate for the infrastructure to support developments and help to sustain West Sussex, doing the minimum of harm.
We may well need to build a new town, but whatever does happen, our plan has to have a strong vision. We cannot continue to spoil Horsham by shoe-horning or tacking on developments.
We are currently building on nearly every blade of grass within the town, losing our playing fields at the Holbrook Club and Novartis sites. Many of our office blocks are being converted to residential apartments; losing us the business rates that Cllr Rae thinks are so important.
Our proposed leisure facilities at Broadbridge Heath are being limited because of the desire to build over 200 flats on the site; greed not vision from the Conservative Cabinet, unlike their counterparts in High Wycombe who are delivering first-rate facilities for their residents.
Waitrose and John Lewis may be a fantastic facility for the town, but this will be a magnet for shoppers and the town will quickly become gridlocked without improved roads and traffic flow.
In a few short years, Horsham will no longer be recognisable as the Horsham that we know today; it will be fast becoming a large town, a dormitory for London and Gatwick.
Our job as councillors is to ensure that with good planning, vision and leadership, the result is still a great place to live and work.
(LDem, Horsham Park) Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Horsham District Council, North Street, Horsham