We learned at a recent consultation meeting about the Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre that one of the reasons why the council wants to raise money from the disposal of this site is to deal with the housing crisis in the district.
Horsham Labour Party has been warning the council about the housing crisis for at least five years and campaigning for the council to address this by ensuring delivery of affordable housing through the planning process.
The council has persistently chosen to ignore our warnings and failed time and again to take the steps it could and should have taken, most evidently in relation to strategic sites where they failed to stand up to the developers and insist on the appropriate levels of affordable housing as identified in their core strategy.
Even now, despite the acknowledged crisis, the council is failing to use the powers it has available to ensure that new developments provide the homes we need; we are still seeing large-scale developments being approved with no affordable homes included.
The housing crisis that the council speaks of is, therefore, largely of its own making as it has allowed the planning system to provide profit for developers instead of benefit to the local community.
It is therefore a cynical ploy by the council to try to suggest that it has to prioritise housing over leisure facilities when considering the future of the leisure centre.
Before residents of Horsham even begin to consider whether there is any room to compromise on their vision for the future of the centre, the council should provide guarantees that any money raised from any future development on that site will be used to deliver affordable homes for local people in need of decent housing.
This should include details of where the homes will be built, how many and in what timescale.
It should also, with immediate effect, demonstrate its commitment to the housing needs of local people by ensuring that any application for development of more than 14 units delivers 40 per cent affordable homes on the site, in accordance with the target it currently has in place but has consistently failed to achieve.
Without these assurances it will be clear that there has been no road to Damascus-style conversion to the cause of those in housing need by the Tory council and that, true to form, they are simply keen to try any means possible to push through the plans that will benefit business rather than local people that they are supposed to serve.
Horsham Labour Party, Clarence Road, Horsham