Council declines request for 4,500 homes plan details

AN APPEAL has been made by a Langhurstwood Road resident after Horsham District Council refused to release details of a proposed development of 4,500 houses north of the A264.

At the beginning of January Brian Johnson wrote to the council asking for information of the plans revealed in the County Times for homes, a new railway station, a business park, schools, leisure facilities and a site for a hospital.

The development would take up an 800-acre site and increase the town’s population by 25 per cent.

The plans were revealed by Crickmay Chartered Surveyors, which was acting for 12 major landowners in partnership with American owned development company Liberty.

Crickmay submitted ‘evidence based proposals’ for the development to Horsham District Council before Christmas.

“There was obviously a dossier sitting in the council offices and I was given an indication I would get some details,” Mr Johnson said.

“The council got back to me and said they would look into it under Freedom of Information and I was pretty hopeful they would give me some information.”

This week, however, Mr Johnson was angry when he received a two-page email stating no details would be released, despite also saying 2004 regulations had a ‘presumption in favour of disclosure’.

The Freedom of Information page on the council’s website cites a request for sight of all information held about the north of the A264 development.

It states: “Resolution: Information withheld - reg 12 (s)(d) - provided in confidence.”

After contacting the council, Mr Johnson was advised an appeal would be dealt with by the legal department and he now has to wait another 20 days for the result.

“There have been lots of meetings for at least 18 months yet I went to a North Horsham Parish Council meeeting last Thursday and we knew more about the plans than they did.

“It is terrible really. There are lots of people who own land who know more than the councillors do.

“I think we know more than the district councillors do.”

District councillor Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) said he was looking after the interests of residents like Mr Johnson and also seeking more information to be released to councillors.

“I have asked officers to urgently reassess the refusal with a view to giving out any information they can,” he said.

“As the local member for Holbrook West I am hoping to have a meeting and have asked for any information the council has to bring me up to speed on all the issues involved with the possible use of land north of the A264 for any new development.

“I will do my best to look after the interests of residents and keep them informed.”