Prior to the possible adoption of the Horsham District Planning Framework tonight (Thursday November 19) 12 district councillors have reaffirmed their opposition to the proposed North Horsham development.
Horsham district councillors John Bailey (Con, Rudgwick), Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East), Alan Britten (Con, Roffey North), Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West), Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East), Jonathan Dancer (Roffey North), Tony Hogben (Con, Denne), Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate), Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West), Josh Murphy (Con, Horsham Park), Connor Relleen (Con, Horsham Park), Simon Torn (Con, Roffey South) have written the following:
On Thursday, 19 November at 6pm the full council meets to debate and vote on whether or not to adopt the HDPF.
The HDPF is a bad plan and bad planning: it will change the face of Horsham with an urban extension losing 15 per cent of our strategic gap, more traffic added to our gridlocked roads, a secondary school in the wrong place, and an impact on retail trade in the town which will hit local independent traders hardest.
Those who use the London Underground will be familiar with the ‘Mind the Gap!’ warning.
Here at home in our own district we have our own ‘gap’ that separates Horsham from Crawley and has kept the rural idyll safe.
We’re talking of course about planning and Horsham District Council’s (HDC) Preferred Strategy, which councillors are voting on whether or not to adopt as the district’s plan for the next 25 years at a meeting of full council tonight (Thursday, 19 November at 6pm).
The Strategic Gap is our very own local ‘green belt’ which has prevented sprawl and maintained the unique identity of Horsham and our district.
In March 1984 it was reported in this newspaper that a housing scheme was being considered for Roffey. The then planning officer was quoted at the time stating HDC’s position unequivocally: “Philip Hodskinson said: ‘That area of land is White Land which means it cannot be built on. It is part of the strategic gap we want to keep clear between Horsham and Crawley.’”
It is vital we preserve the sanctity of such green - or ‘white’ as they were then - spaces.
As the then Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, Eric Pickles, said: ‘a green belt is to prevent conurbations bumping into each other.’ (BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, October 2013).
The Strategic Gap between Horsham and Crawley is currently 2.14 miles. The development proposed on land north of Horsham would mean that the existing Strategic Gap would be narrowed by a third of a mile meaning a reduction in the length of the gap of some 15 per cent.
But all that - and more - is at risk.
The significant part of the plan being finally voted upon tonight is to build 2,750 homes - or nearer 4,500 as Liberty have land options well beyond the specific site being considered in this current plan; a supermarket; an industrial park the size of four football stadiums; and a new railway station resulting in the downgrading of all fast services at Littlehaven station – that means those commuting to London from Holbrook or Roffey will travel more than an extra thee hours a week on the train!
We, along with others such as Rusper Parish Council, North Horsham Parish Council, the Horsham Society, and more than 3,500 people who have signed the petition, have written in these pages warning that putting an island community of that size to the north and east of the A264 by-pass will destroy our identity in Horsham.
The resulting urbanisation will be a lasting legacy to the failure of Horsham District Council’s stewardship. The strong boundary created by the A264 by-pass will be lost forever and will bring about the creation of “Crawsham”, a sprawl across the bypass joining Horsham to Crawley.
A secondary school in the wrong place
The next significant flaw in this plan is the decision to put aside land for a new secondary school in Horsham on green fields in on the other side of the A264.
This will cause a monumental shake up of our secondary school catchment areas across the town, especially in Holbrook and in Roffey and in the villages nearby such as Warnham and Rusper on a scale has not seen before.
And yet there has been no public-led debate about this by the district council.
Two years ago it was confirmed to us from an education officer at West Sussex County Council that a development of around 2,500 houses north of the A264, would require a new primary school with an intake of 75 children per year - but would not necessitate the need for a new secondary schooling in that location at all.
We wrote about these concerns in this newspaper at the time back in 2013. But those concerns have not been listened to.
This local plan, by wrongly placing the school in North Horsham, means that the school will have to take addition pupils from well beyond the strategic site of North Horsham.
From reading Liberty’s own evidence produced by its independent consultants Peter Brett Associates (PBA) who used the 2011 Census and figures agreed by West Sussex County Council, PBA have calculated that just 518 pupils are assumed to attend the proposed secondary school who will actually live on the new site.
Yet Liberty and the district council’s proposal is for a 1,260 pupil secondary school leaving a shortfall of 742 children to come to this school from off site.
That means just 40 per cent attending this new school will come from on the site and 60 per cent of pupils will not.
And so just where are these 742 pupils going to come from?
Already the taxpayer picks up the bill for £240,000 per annum to bus 600 pupils each day from Southwater to the secondary schools in Horsham. Our secondary schools in Horsham are now at bursting point and face a places crisis in the next couple of years.
If this new school were to proceed clearly some pupils from Southwater would be bussed north on the A24. That’s a 14 mile round trip each day on school buses from their home in Southwater to the Rusper roundabout at North Horsham.
At the Pubic Inquiry last year a West Sussex County officer, Mr Mathews, gave evidence on 14 November 2014. He confirmed to the Inspector that the school in north Horsham would take pupils from Crawley.
The North Horsham site is simply not a sustainable location since pupils from Crawley would need to be bussed in – and at a cost to the taxpayer.
Clearly the school in that location is not viable. Why should Horsham’s green fields in the Strategic Gap be used to build this enormous eight-form entry secondary school with sixth form college to take pupils from Crawley? This school will further lead to coalescence of the towns and ‘Crawsham’.
There has been no consultation with the public about the location of secondary schools and education provision and the impact that a school in north Horsham will have on school catchments areas right across the town as well as in Crawley.
The proper location for the secondary school is in Southwater, which is the largest area in West Sussex without its own secondary school.
And just what sort of school will it be? Well we just don’t know. The District Council will put aside the land as part of the plan so if a ‘free school’ decides to set itself up and run the school then that will fulfill the need.
In a Main Modification (No.23) to two policies it has been recognised from the Horsham District Transport and Development Study that development in North Horsham would result in an increase in vehicle trips travelling north into Surrey towards existing problem locations such as at Dorking and Leatherhead.
Specific reference is made to a “comprehensive transport assessment…” being “undertaken prior to the determination of planning application for the site’s development”.
The A24 as it exists today is very dangerous and the extra traffic which will be put on the A24 with the north of Horsham development will only make it worse.
Nothing is known how long this assessment will take and what can be done (at the practical level) to improve the A24 and to accommodate (with safety) the additional traffic flows which will go onto the A24 if the North of Horsham scheme proceeds.
And what about the existing A264? It is proposed to signalise the Great Daux roundabout, build another roundabout with traffic lights on near Langhurst Wood Road, and add traffic lights to a new larger gyratory Rusper Roundabout. This key arterial road from the coast to Gatwick, Croydon and beyond will come to a grinding halt.
Retail – local traders hit the hardest
The main concern with the retail strategy of the local plan relates to Liberty’s proposed new supermarket at North Horsham.
Liberty claim that the shopping facilities at North Horsham are intended as a local centre primarily to serve the proposed new housing, educational and business developments yet they propose a 6,596 gross (4,506 smq net sales area) for a new supermarket.
Liberty’s consultants, Peter Brett Associates (PBA), have conducted an Impact Assessment on the shops and supermarkets in the town (North Horsham Retail Statement) and taking a number of facts together they conclude the following impact on the Town:
Impact in 2020 (%)
Impact in 2025 (%)
Named out of Centre Destination
Tesco, Broadbridge Heath
Town Centre, Destination
Marks & Spencer, Horsham
Local Shops, Horsham
Total Town Centre Destinations
(Source: PBA North Horsham Retail Statement, Table 5.4 percentage Impact in 2020 and 2025, p19)
And another table (10a) marked ‘Summary of Convenience Impact of Application Scheme in 2020’ sets out in years 2012 and 2025 how the shops in Horsham town are predicted for a drop in turnover (in £million) due to the proposed new out of town supermarket:
Negative Impact in 2020 (£m%)
Sainsbury’s (town centre) -24.6%
Waitrose -8.3% (NB that must refer to the old Waitrose)
Marks & Spencer -5.1%
Local Shops, Horsham -8.1%
Total Town Centre Destinations -19.2%
Impact in 2025 (£m%)
Waitrose -7.8% (NB must refer to the old Waitrose)
Marks & Spencer -4.8%
Local Shops, Horsham -7.2%
Total Town Centre Destinations -17.7% PBA conclude “the levels of impact on the convenience sector in the town centre are estimated to be 19.2% in 2020, reducing slightly to 17.7% by 2025.” Yet PBA do not conclude that that this will be a “significantly adverse impact” on the Town.
But the above figures mean a reduction in footfall in the town as people in the new development, and any business and industrial park, and the immediate existing surrounding area shop for convenience products locally at this new supermarket and so don’t travel into the town centre.
And a supermarket in North Horsham is very likely to impact on the local village store in Warnham and in Rusper and also the convenience store on North Heath Lane. The impact on the village shops just wasn’t considered in Liberty’s Impact Assessment.
We must recognise that Sainsbury and Waitrose in the Town centre ensure that shoppers drawn into the town can remain and use local independent shops and eat and drink at the restaurants and cafes.
It will be the independent traders that suffer the most from Liberty’s supermarket proposal.
No Community Infrastructure Level (CIL)
Alarmingly there just aren’t any monies for the community infrastructure. Why not? Evidently the site is just too expensive to develop with the road infrastructure and sewage particularly. Why should the local community miss out when the better strategic housing site is Southwater which brings the benefit that the developer will actually build the secondary school and precisely where it’s needed.
A business and industrial park – but for whom?
The mantra from the proponents of this half-baked scheme has always been that there would be a 500,000 sq ft business park on the edge of the town.
Yet these same people have sat silently as offices in the town centre have been converted to flats under Permitted Development Rights. We want offices in the Town centre bringing vitality to the lunchtime café trade.
In over two and a half years since this scheme was proposed not one business has come forward to state its intention to councillors and the public of its wish to move to this site. And last week at a meeting when Liberty’s MD Mr Blevins was asked who is to build the units on the business park – would it be Liberty or the businesses, there was no clear answer!
And all at time when there are plans near Horley for a massive 170 acre business park, equivalent in size to 85 football pitches, right next to Gatwick Airport to support some 4,000 jobs.
Yet with regard to Liberty’s business park the District Council hasn’t produced any Letter of Intent from a business wishing to move to it.
The concept of a business park is the Trojan Horse to enable building in the Strategic Gap – to use an emotional blackmail argument of jobs to trump the preservation of the green space of the Strategic Gap. Whilst in truth the business park will just be a huge white elephant.
The proposed development will be an enormous urban extension to the town – a carbuncle. The breach of a promise never to development beyond the A264. The additional traffic and drag of footfall from the Town will be a millstone around the Town’s neck.
Over 30 years, officers’ planning advice had been to develop to the south of the town and not to the north, avoiding breaching the A264. But that was all torn up in May 2013. It’s not too late to stop this and get the right - and the very best plan - for our town and district.
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