I met the headline news of the June 27 edition of the West Sussex County Times (‘New housing blueprint will save villages from sprawl’) with a genuine surprise and a sense of hope mixed with some scepticism that at last Horsham District Council will give the residents and communities of this District a real chance to decide how their community changes over the next 20 years, rather than the top-down imposed method used in the past.
Most welcome were the cap on the amount of development any one village will take and the reduction of the scale of plans for the so-called ‘Strategic Sites’ – most notably North of Horsham. Having said all that ,however, we are still being faced by a large target of 575 houses per year to 2031, this number being the result of the GL Hearn Report which stated that there was a large demand for housing for those people working in the Gatwick area.
I have been investigating in depth the recently released 2011 Census data for the District, and the evidence seems to counter the argument given by GL Hearn and HDC for a larger number of houses in order to create or bring more employment to the area. My initial thoughts are that the increases in houses built since 2001 do not, in many cases, correlate closely with the increase (or in some parishes, decrease) in populations.
For example, Amberley Parish has seen a 9.94 per cent population increase, but a 23.98 per cent increase in housing. Furthermore, the Colgate Parish has seen a decrease in population but a huge 20.88 per cent increase in the number of houses. To me, this would seem that the argument of more houses for employment is not true or accurate, because the data suggests that it is household size that is decreasing with fewer people per dwelling than ten years ago, rather than new people coming in.
This is particularly true when referenced to the Office for National Statistics data for migration into and out from the Horsham District, and surrounding Districts.
It is clear that there is no large inward migration into the Horsham District for work (only two people per 1,000 Horsham District residents came here from outside the District to work – less than the National average) and only three per 1,000 District residents (same as National average) live in the District but work outside the area.
Furthermore, with quite a large number of people outside the area having second homes in the Horsham District (36 people per 1,000 District residents) this could be the main source of demand for housing – i.e. 18 times more people come here for a second home than come here to work.
This factor is therefore quite likely to be the largest factor behind the decrease in household size. The ONS data also shows that the vast majority of Horsham District residents also work in the District, so, statistically, there is very little inward or outward migration as referenced in the GL Hearn Report (i.e. they say that there is a need for much more housing due to the proximity to Gatwick where most people in the District, they allege, travel to work there).
The final point I would like to counter is the argument by HDC in the past that more housing creates economic growth. Being one of the District representatives present at the Westminster launch of the CPRE Charter on 16th July, Clive Betts MP – chairman of the Housing Development All-Party Parliamentary Group – stated that there is no evidence that development supports growth. He stated that we ‘need to stop this myth’.
I hope, and urge, all district councillors to press the point at 25th July Full Council meeting that the number of houses already built in the District since 2011 should be subtracted from the targets set for each parish/town in order to ensure that the infrastructure is not overburdened more than it already is by excessive housing, and to ensure that decisions are made for housing to be located in the right places of benefit to each community rather than the continued opportunistic urban sprawl we are all too familiar with.
Stane Street Close, Codmore Hill, Pulborough