LETTER: Why fundamental change in plan?

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I was pleased to read (16/1/14, p24) that councillor David Skipp (but not his Roffey North ward colleague and HDC deputy leader Helena Croft) is calling for the Scrutiny Committee at Horsham District Council to investigate how the Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, councillor Vickers, as well as councillors Ray Dawe, Helena Croft and Jim Rae’s housing plan, as in its current form, came to be put before council on 25 July 2013.

From freely accessible online articles from this newspaper the Scrutiny Committee should consider the following chronology: (1) at a meeting of SPAG on Wednesday, 10 October 2012, former Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning, Ian Howard, stated that he would be ‘pushing the figure of 635’ new houses per year in the Horsham District in his housing strategy, which was to be put before the council meeting on Wednesday, 24 October 2012, in addition to setting out a timetable which would have seen his preferred strategy going out to public consultation in autumn 2012, with adoption of the Plan in the summer of 2014; (2) the plan at that time and discussed a month earlier at SPAG on 11 September 2012 could have seen between 2,000 to 2,750 houses and a new secondary school in Southwater (residents in Southwater in January 2012 rejected a secondary school run as ‘free school’) and up to 1,750 houses in Billingshurst and a new market town of 10,000 houses; (3) on 12 April 2013 it was announced that Ian Howard had resigned and that councillor Claire Vickers was to replace him; (4) on 26 June 2013 councillor Vickers announced that her advisory group formerly known as SPAG would be renamed as ‘PPAG’ but more importantly it would now meet in in private (whereas her two predecessors of councillors Ian Howard and David Jenkins’ meetings of SPAG had always met in public); (5) on 4 July 2012 in this newspaper both councillors Ray Dawe and Jim Rae wrote articles stating the need for business park when before this date it had never featured in any plan or ever been raised; (6) on 25 July 2013 councillor Vickers’ plan of 575 homes per year (instead of 635) just 500 houses in Southwater (a housing number reduction of 82 per cent) and 500 houses in Billingshurst (a housing reduction of 71 per cent), a ward also represented by a Cabinet member appointed just after Easter 2012 in its housing allocation - but now differently 2,500 homes in North Horsham with Liberty, owned by its USA based parent company, to build 500,000 sq ft of industrial park and a secondary school, a large supermarket and a railway station; and (7) councillor Vickers in this paper (16/1/14, p1 Horsham), just five weeks after the results of the eight week pubic consultation were debated at council on 11 December 2013 states that space for another 1,000 houses has to be found and that there is ‘no intention’ that these will go in North Horsham.

I hope that the chairman of the Scrutiny Committee and councillors find this of assistance during the debate between now and the vote on 30 April 2014 and, if needs be, the Inspector at the Enquiry in Public (EiP) to be held in September 2014.

I have tried through Freedom of Information requests to HDC to obtain emails sent by, and between, councillors Ray Dawe, Claire Vickers, Helena Croft and Jim Rae and planning officers to help me understand why the plan changed so fundamentally in the short time between Ian Howard abruptly resigning and councillor Vickers being appointed, but all my requests have been refused since September 2013. I hope others may succeed where I have not, as of this date.

I. ROHVARGER (Mrs)

B.E.S (Urban Planning and Architecture), B.Arch, Pondtail Road, Horsham