Back-door top-down housing targets will ‘deliver pain’ says South Downs MP

field pic
field pic

Congested roads, over-subscribed schools and flooding are three issues facing the Horsham district that should set the limit for housebuilding - according to one MP.

Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, was one of 17 Conservative backbenchers to ‘revolt’, according to national media, over changes to the planning system in a heated Westminster Hall debate with Planning Minister Nick Boles.

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

Last Wednesday Mr Boles said that far more homes were needed to solve a ‘housing crisis’ where first-time buyers were struggling to get on the property ladder without their parents’ help, blaming a rising elderly population as well as mass immigration.

But Mr Herbert countered by arguing that allowing top-down targets through the back door would ‘deliver a great deal of pain’ rather than the additional housing needed.

He said that housing targets set by district councils should take into account the infrastructure available to support the numbers.

Mr Herbert explained: “Many in communities in my constituency are concerned that inadequate consideration is given to the availability of infrastructure to support development proposals.

“We have congested roads, over-subscribed schools, serious flooding issues and countryside that is valued and in short supply.”

Public consultation on Horsham District Council’s draft preferred strategy, which will set out where and how many houses are built in the district in the next 20 years, closed on October 11.

The strategy includes proposals for 2,500 homes and a new business park north of Horsham.

A new strategy would be formally adopted by 2015 at the earliest, but HDC approved a planning application for 475 homes in Billingshurst earlier this year, with many councillors admitting they had little choice since the Government’s planning inspector would only grant permission on appeal.

HDC has encouraged parishes to start work on Neighbourhood Plans, which would sit alongside the district-wide strategy and inform any future development.

Mr Herbert added: “If those plans were given no weight, speculative applications would be allowed, and we would get a system that was not plan-led, but developer-led, which would effectively amount to a free-for-all on our countryside.”

Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), HDC’s cabinet member for living and working communities, thanked the public for ‘valuable’ contributions to the consultation process and said the process of validating all the comments would be finished by mid-November.

The council will then discuss a report summarising submissions on December 11.

For more see p.40.