LETTER: We will not be held to ransom

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Cllr Dawe (WSCT 03/04/2014) said he believes in the Liberty-led idea of a developing North of Horsham because evidence pointed towards that land - as if we all do not now know there never was any sound evidence, and he and his inner clique (Cllrs Vickers, Croft and Rae) have been unsuccessfully trying to find evidence and justification ever since.

His idea of building a 500,000 sq ft business park north of the A264 for ‘essential’ income generation for HDC, has been blown out of the water because the Government is going to change the rules. HDC will not be able to benefit from the business rates.

Cllr Dawe refers to a railway station ‘if possible’ (the first time we have seen that qualification in print) knowing full well that a Freedom of Information request has confirmed that Network Rail has hit that idea on the head. A train station will NOT be provided on the Liberty site.

Cllr Dawe is so desperate to find evidence that ‘show-stopper’ traffic chaos will not ensue that the Traffic Impact assessment has been delayed and delayed, and still not been published weeks before the council is to be whipped into accepting it.

HDC commissioned a report to provide a market appraisal on the current and potential future demand for business space within the district, with particular reference to the proposed to the 500,000 sq ft business park. The undated report was written by Adam Godfrey, a partner with Stiles Harold Williams, Crawley, and can be read at ‘Horsham.gov.uk/environment/planning_policy/documents/Final_Market_Appraisal_Version_2.pdf

The report states (p9) that: ‘the proposed North of Horsham location will, in my view, attract interest from a wide geographical area, as the site has a number of key locational advantages over Langhurstwood Road and Southwater’. Mr Godfrey suggests the main attractive features for new business would be:

• ‘Visibility from principle (sic) roads (sic) (A264).’ However, residents consider visibility of the site as being detrimental factor overall to the local environment.

• ‘Excellent communications to the national motorway network via the M23 at Pease Pottage and M25 some 12 miles away.’ However, the site is at the very western tip of the Gatwick diamond up to 30 minutes extra driving time from the north-south M23/A23 corridor; much further away from the Gatwick hub than masses of vacant industrial/commercial space in Crawley and Croydon; the existing road infrastructure to the M23/A23 is already overloaded and the Highways Agency has stated further development along A264 could be a show-stopper.

• ‘A dedicated railway station which should provide regular services to Gatwick Airport within 10-15 minutes, and London in less then (sic) 1 hour.’ Information available from Network Rail suggests this train station is unlikely ever to be allowed. Mr Godfrey gives no consideration given to site attraction without a station and has since confirmed to me that he was unaware a railway station would not be provided by Network Rail.

• ‘Being able to get to Gatwick within 15 minutes by car.’ Such a timing would require an average speed of 60mph. Mr Godfrey has obviously never driven from the Rusper roundabout to Gatwick.

As for Mr Godfrey’s assessment that ‘demand for commercial space far exceeds supply’, no consideration has been given to the multiple factors that can constrain a business from moving to any particular location, however ideal. The assessment is grossly exaggerated.

Mr Godfrey appears to have accepted information on face value without checking validity or considering alternatives. How much money did HDC spend on this and other consultancy reports to try to get evidence to fit its flawed plan?

Having made a unilateral decision that North of Horsham is the one and only strategy, announcing it to Liberty and all, Cllr Dawe says we now have to go ahead because he knows ‘for certain the developer is not going to go away’.

He got us into this situation and now says there’s no way out. There is Cllr Dawe, there’s the door, use it. We will not be held to ransom.

C. MORRIS

Tennyson Close, Horsham