LETTER: Why Local Plan is totally unsound

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It is hoped that many more than the 1,800 residents who took the time to respond to Horsham District Council last year as part of the consultation about HDC Local Plan will take the opportunity over the next few weeks to respond through the council but this time knowing their concerns will go to the inspector for his autumn hearing in public.

He/she will want to hear from anyone about the issues David Moore raised in his piece last week ‘Can anything go wrong? Of course it can’.

Is the plan justified, well-prepared, effective and consistent with national policy? In my view the plan is totally unsound and here are some reasons why.

The strategy is inappropriate for Horsham district - we don’t need to build this many new houses - the Plan proposes to urbanise the District in a gamble to capture more business rate money.

Annual housing target increased from 575pa to 650pa simply to support a business park. ‘In addition the District wishes to promote economic growth without needing people to commute long distances to fill the jobs so further additional homes will be provided to meet this need for economic growth...’.

There is no need to increase economic growth for the population; this plan pulls in more people for whom we then have to build houses. Gatwick Diamond Initiative (GDI) foresees no significant need for more employment space in the area.

Traffic congestion - WSP study based on 2,446 not 4,000 jobs. Modelled on 3,000 households whereas HDC plan 4,500. Journeys underestimated by 22 per cent households and 40 per cent jobs.

Study concluded peak congestion and adverse impacts even with mitigation measures - the development will cause the maximum allowable increased traffic congestion; increasing travel time, fuel consumption, noise and air pollution.

The A264 will have five sets of traffic lights along this northern bypass between Great Daux and Rusper roundabouts, a new roundabout between the two, pedestrian crossings and a much bigger Rusper roundabout.

The money being chased isn’t worth chasing – the benefit is temporary (a few years) and offset by the costs of maintaining the area. January 2014 the Local Government Association said reforms to local government finance to allow councils to retain half of business rate growth have increased the level of financial risk faced by town halls and these risks are difficult to manage. According to the LGA, only 29 per cent of authorities said the system provided enough of an incentive to promote economic growth.

Greenfield strategic site - greenfield land earmarked a strategic site in direct contravention of the National Planning Policy Framework directive to prioritise brownfield land. Novartis 28 acre site with 500,000-plus sq ft of business space ignored in favour of a greenfield scheme two miles away.

The ‘evidence base’ is weak and fundamentally flawed - eg SHW Market Appraisal refers to ‘demand’ exceeding supply but only gives examples of businesses that have shown an ‘interest’, while the Nathaniel Lichfield report says at 2.29 ‘There are differing views on how the market will evolve in the coming years, in particular the recovery of commercial values and rents’.

Large sites fail to meet build-out targets and allow developers to hold the District to ransom, as in West of Horsham. The North of Horsham developer-in-waiting has a history of failed mixed development. In Kent 3.8million sq ft commercial space became 2m sq ft, then 1m sq ft. Only 0.8m sq ft built, 0.6m occupied, in 25 years of trying. A ‘village’ of 250 dwellings is now a town of 3,385 houses - ‘People who have bought into Kings Hill new town project should not be surprised when it expands beyond their wishes’.

Rail Station - WSP Traffic Study did not include a new rail station. Styles Harold Williams Market Appraisal said station was a ‘key locational advantage’ even though Network Rail will not provide or allow a station! Further strain on overstretched local stations: Horsham, Littlehaven, Warnham, Faygate.

Secondary school – decades more of bussing 600-plus children from Southwater to Horsham at £250,000-plus every year as cost to taxpayers. School is not being built where it is needed; functional catchment areas disrupted and pointlessly shifted. North Horsham and vicinity is well serviced by Millais and Forest and north Horsham families having taken out huge mortgages to be in the catchments of these schools might find their school in future is a free school in the Horsham/Crawley catchment.

Flooding: increases of flooding in UK indicate further reasons not to build on/near floodplains.

Dr GEOFFREY RICHARDSON

Tennyson Close, Horsham