Nailbiting, if not frustrating. Watching on a big screen from The Capitol, Horsham District Council’s meeting, in which the fate of the North Horsham development was to be decided, was a long one. And a fairly heated one.
On the side of the development, councillors cited the economic gains from the business park, the necessity of building homes and reaching those national targets. North Horsham would soak up a lot of housing for much of the District for the next few years.
Brian Donnelly said most areas would be over the moon with the business park moving in. Some even suggested the objectors were against young people getting homes.
Objecting councillors cited the rural character of the area, the environmental impact of the building of so many homes, the possibility of other sites, the traffic, and the greenfield gap between towns.
Peter Burgess questioned whether the proposed and ‘modern and hi-tech’ business park would even go ahead in the end, citing the Kings Hill development where the same proposed developer changed much of its earmarked business park to cater for more houses.
Ultimately though the council meeting was worrying. Because, who decides on the fate of Horsham?
The Government’s Localism Act 2011 in theory gives local people a bigger say in development. HDC has to plan for future homes and jobs. We need homes and jobs.
However, this doesn’t feel much like localism. On the question of where to build the much needed homes in the Horsham District, there was just one option on the table, the North Horsham area, to vote on. This was despite alternatives being asked for and readily suggested for the quite large district.
Other options were dropped in a closed meeting in favour of pushing for this development.
What was that consultation for? Leonard Crosbie talked about spreading the housing pain around the district so to lower the impact on any one place, dismissed as unworkable by Claire Vickers, maybe to the relief of other councillors keen to protect their parts of the district from the housing pain.
But even more concerning was the assertion made time and again that Horsham was at risk. If we don’t accept this one plan, then those developers would be free to plant houses wherever they wanted having been given permission by government to get building.
There was no five year rolling land supply which would have protected Horsham from outside developers (and a good question why wasn’t there?).
So the option was to accept the one proposal or face the developers moving in to wherever they chose.
Jim Rae gloomily summed up ‘we have no choice’ due to government policy but to accept this development. This was the often cited response to objections.
But if our hands are tied by national government and developers, then what are local councillors for?
Brook Road, Horsham