Readers’ letters - January 27

Views ignored

MEMBERS of Horsham Labour Party attended the recent council meeting at which outline planning permission was granted for an application from Countryside Properties to build 963 houses at Broadbridge Heath and in so doing doubling the size of the village.

We spoke against the application on the grounds that it contained insufficient affordable housing. Just 20 per cent of the homes that will be built on site will be affordable.

This once more leaves serious question marks over the desire of Horsham District Council to meet its own affordable housing target of 40 per cent.

Lib Dem and Tory councillors who voted in favour of the application ignored their own strategy document, the evidence from the district valuer, who asserted that this development could afford to meet the council’s target, and the views of the public, who through letter writing, consultation responses and petition signing made their views clear, that nothing less than 40 per cent would be acceptable.

Why is it that the Big Society and Localism appears to work in reverse in Horsham MP Francis Maude’s own backyard?

The public are in favour of limited development to meet the needs of local people, while Horsham District Council works with a property developer to double the size of the village, with little chance of local people able to afford the new homes.

On this development only one member of the ‘public’, the developer, spoke in favour of the application, an abuse of the democratic process if ever we saw one, while parish councillors and local residents along with Horsham Labour Party all expressed concerns over a myriad of unresolved issues including flooding, the position of junctions and the main road running through the development, lack of community facilities and the development starting at the far side so that it will be many years before the two halves of Broadbridge Heath become one.

It was clear at the meeting that the council has not gained community buy in, and it felt more ‘bankrupt’ than Big Society here in Horsham, as both Lib Dem and Tory councillors joined together in nodding through this application.

This feeling was further enhanced when it became clear that the local Lib Dem councillor for the ward hadn’t even turned up and registered her vote for or against this application.

Horsham Labour Party will continue to challenge the council to meet its own housing targets.

RAY CHAPMAN

Secretary, Horsham Labour Party

Pondtail Road, Horsham

Vigilance needed

A HORSHAM District Council document, entitled ‘What are your priorities for Billingshurst?’, put through residents’ doors last week, presents three options for development: (1) Unplanned growth; (2) Around 250 houses (plus other planning applications); and (3) 500 houses - to be built to the east of Billingshurst.

This document, for me, brought back memories of the wide-ranging consultation process preceding the Billingshurst bypass decision in the late 1990s. Options were presented, community benefits were listed, there were meetings, and as a result over 550 houses were built, together with the bypass.

A more detailed recollection of what was promised, with an ‘update’, is a salutary exercise.

Certainly the large scale development to the west of Billingshurst did not prevent other land development proposals, in close proximity, being put forward and granted planning permission. Two examples are Forge Way and Newbridge Gardens.

We did secure a number of benefits, but not quite as they might be portrayed: the swimming pool was delayed by years, and needed other investment to become a reality; most of the community land and the pavilion at Jubilee Fields are leased to the Billingshurst Sports Association, and are not easily available for community use.

Both enhance Billingshurst’s increasing status as a ‘hub’ for other villages - to the detriment of Billingshurst residents who carry support maintenance charges on the precept.

Significantly, the recent document reintroduces some benefits promised to the community from earlier bypass negotiations: a cemetery, promised but never materialised; parking facilities, promised but foregone when the designated land was sold for development (now Jubilee Court); a new primary school - promised but foregone when the land in Forge Way was sold for housing development.

In addition, the promised garage/filling station on the bypass did not materialise - and Billingshurst has lost all of its three original garages.

In its effort to secure an Option 3 vote, is HDC, in its document, resorting to emotional blackmail? Are we to believe, for example, that a new primary school for Billingshurst will only come about if the village opts for a development of either 250 or 500 houses?

Does this mean that, at present, the primary school has plenty of room? Since this does not seem to mirror generally perceived facts, perhaps HDC could provide some WSCC (which carries the responsibility for education) statistics to explain exactly what is meant!

The priority of HDC is the fulfillment of its housing obligation to the district. The overall benefit or otherwise to the Billingshurst community is secondary to this, and it is therefore the responsibility of Billingshurst residents to make this our priority. Evidence suggests that what HDC may offer as an allurement may well not be realised, and we should recognise this.

It would seem that the only way that development in Billingshurst can be controlled, and effectively matched with community benefits, is by the vigilant monitoring (by individuals and pressure groups) of specific planning applications as they occur, assessed against need and the benefits on offer (Option 1).

Where a planning application is granted, the monitoring by the community, of timely, responsible delivery of agreed community benefits, is essential.

ANN RODWELL

Forge Way, Billingshurst

Common sense

OF COURSE it is essential that motorists are warned about forthcoming roadworks, but why don’t those in charge use a bit of common sense?

There is a notice by Lakers Meadow in Billingshurst that has ten lines on it. It is impossible to read any of this, unless the driver stops, thereby holding up any traffic behind them.

Drivers aren’t interested in what work is being done, or who is doing it. All we want is the date, and how long the work will take. A small telephone number can be included at the bottom - who can read and remember a phone number while driving past?

BARBARA THOMAS

Nightingale Walk Billingshurst

Audience views

THE BBC Regional Audience Councils are looking for new members to represent the views of the licence fee payers in the area.

The council meets six times a year to discuss BBC programmes and services, providing feedback to the BBC Trust. This is a voluntary role, but expenses are covered.

The council includes people with a wide diversity of interests, from all walks of life offering a strong geographical spread across the region, with an interest in TV, radio or the internet.

Apply online at www.bbc.co.uk/england/ace.

Or phone 08000 925078 for a pack. Closing date for applications is January 28.

FRANCES BRYANT

Public accountability manager, BBC Trust

Havelock Road, Southampton SO14 7PU

Mystery fence

DO ANY of your readers know the function of the ‘mystery’ plastic fence that has appeared in the fields alongside Boldings Brook on the opposite side to Hills Farm Lane in Horsham?

It is only about one foot high and so could hardly be a flood defence.

Anyway it follows the path up towards the Tesco’s footbridge and is discontinued along the A24.

STAN TOFIELD

Granary Way, Horsham