The behaviour of Horsham District Council’s leadership has been attacked as ‘arrogant and terrible’ by the Lib Dem Group leader.
Speaking to the County Times Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park) said her party would fight for improved facilities at Horsham Hospital, push for a return to the committee system at HDC, and call for major upgrades to the A24 north of Horsham.
She said: “As a party we want to bring back democracy to HDC because it’s lost it completely. Some of the things that have been happening in the last four years have been terrible and appalling.
“The secrecy, the whole way it operates, the arrogance has not been good and it’s brought Horsham into disrepute.”
She backs the return of the committee system as ‘too much is done by cabinet without really consulting with other councillors’, and she hoped the Lib Dems could gain a few more seats so there was a ‘better balance’ at HDC.
At Horsham Hospital she believes there is scope for more clinics, some GP services, improved parking, and even some sheltered housing for the elderly alongside it.
While she and most other Lib Dem councillors have opposed the council’s planning framework, which includes 2,500 homes north of the A264, since the planning inspector had found it to be an acceptable site Mrs Haigh said: “A some point you have to sit at the table and say: ‘How do we get the best out of this?’”
In her opinion all the extra traffic from developments west of Horsham, at Kilnwood Vale, and at Southwater would require the A24 north of the town to be dualled, something that has been mentioned on and off for decades.
In the town centre the new wayfinding signs and other projects were changing its character, but Mrs Haigh does not think there appears to be an overall concept about how Horsham could be branded or marketed.
She added: “It’s a lovely place and people come here because of that, the greenery and the flowers and these things matter. It makes it different to other towns.”
She said the Lib Dems would oppose introducing parking charges on Sundays in the town centre car parks, something that has been discussed recently at HDC.
They have looked at Nottingham’s Creative Quarter, the city’s project for economic growth and entrepreneurship, as something that could be applied to Piries Place with its mix of independent traders and small businesses.
She is keen to see co-worker space in the town centre, incubator units for start-ups, as well as space for community groups.
Another project she was working with through the Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Forum was Hack Horsham, which has been working with schools such as Tanbridge to make the town a digital hub. She said: “It’s a really exciting project and it’s getting a lot of momentum.”
She has had conversations with HDC’s chief executive Tom Crowley about whether the authority had become too lean, compromising its ability to deliver on major projects.
She cited the North Street subway and clearing the lakes behind Ayshe Court Drive as two current examples.
Asked if a loss of popularity nationally would affect her party’s ability to win seats at HDC, she said: “I hope we will be taken on our record. We are hard working and we listen to our communities.”
She continued: “We have some excellent candidates and I hope people will read the manifestos and decide on the candidate not the party.
“It matters who can do the job and who will do the job.”