LETTER: Why are protests all so negative?

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As I read the letters protesting about the HDC Housing Strategy Consultation document, again and again my first thought is - why are they all so negative?

I mean, not just about the consultation document but about every aspect of forward planning. Repeatedly the theme of these letters is that we, the residents of Horsham district, do not want any form of economic or infrastructure development, we do not want to attract any new corporate head offices and certainly not any manufacturing industry (yuck)!

This cannot be right, because in consequence we will fail to preserve and maintain the prosperity and beauty of our town, which our forward thinking forefathers and foremothers bequeathed to us.

And we will also fail to meet the challenge of providing homes and jobs for our children and grand-children.

C’mon Horsham, we are better than that! And let’s not also throw out our heritage of local democracy. Apparently, any decision taken by our elected council members which the protesters do not like is flawed and the result of undue influence from small pressure groups.

This is very insulting to both the elected members and the hard-working professional council officers. The vote to move forward with the consultation document was carried by a substantial majority and this document is still at the consultation stage.

It is the product of many months of work by both officers and members, in particular the council Cabinet Member for Living and Working Communities, councillor Claire Vickers.

I have been surprised and disappointed at the number of shameful personal attacks there have been on Cllr Vickers during this consultation. Cllr Vickers has served our community as parish and district councillor for more than 20 years and has done nothing to deserve such criticism.

I can assure readers that Cllr Vickers has stood on, in and around the proposed sites, as I have stood there with her, and she has been very moved by the prospect of loss of these green fields.

However, the National Planning Policy Framework being what it is, we have no choice but to have in place planning policies to deliver the perceived (by central government) housing needs of the district.

It may be hard to accept, but the reality is that HDC is not ‘The Planning Authority’ with power to take binding decisions on planning applications. That is not how it is, we are only the Local Planning Authority.

The real power to determine planning applications rests with Central Government, enacted and enforced through and by the Planning Inspectorate.

The developers know this and mostly will take any application turned down by HDC for appeal to the Regional Planning Inspector.

The National Planning Policy framework has, as its core principle, a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’.

This means that until we have an up to date adopted District Planning Framework in place which shows deliverable housing numbers in line with central government policy and expectations we are vulnerable to any large scale planning applications anywhere in our district.

The suggestion in some letters that there is an alternative very large ‘brown field’ site in Southwater is totally wrong.

The land in Southwater parish targeted by developers is currently a working dairy farm, centred around Great House Farm which is a Grade II-star listed building.

This land has been farmed by the same family for over 200 years and is part of our national heritage.

Local history accounts show that there has been a working farm on this site since the 14th century. To label this land as a brown field site is misleading and I trust that the above information will be suffice to refute any further such statements.

JOHN CHIDLOW

(Con, Southwater) Horsham district councillor for Southwater, North Street, Horsham