Councillors reject attempt to shelve North Horsham development

Karen Burgess, who tabled the motion, narrowly lost the vote tonight
Karen Burgess, who tabled the motion, narrowly lost the vote tonight

AN ATTEMPT to shelve a proposed 2,500-home North Horsham development was narrowly rejected by councillors in an emotive debate tonight (Wednesday, June 24).

Conservative backbenchers submitted a Notice of Motion to Horsham District Council, urging members to delete the development north of the A264 from the local plan, allocating it elsewhere in the district.

The motion, described by chief executive Tom Crowley as the ‘most important decision’ he had seen in 40 years of local government, was defeated by 24 votes to 19.

But in a dramatic twist, cabinet member for waste, recycling and cleansing Andrew Baldwin resigned his post, alleging leader Ray Dawe had said he would be sacked for supporting the motion.

Speaking before the debate, Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East), who proposed the motion, told the County Times: “(This housing plan) is wrong in so many ways. It is our duty as local councillors to reflect what our electorate is telling us.

“Nearly 3,000 residents have shown their dismay at a process that has totally excluded them from the debate about this important issue. This is an issue that affects the whole district.”

Proceedings opened with representatives from several parish councils, who urged councillors to dismiss the motion.

Penny Simpson, chairman of Itchingfield Parish Council, said: “We have been urging the council to put a framework in place to protect us for eight years not only from speculative development applications but the influx of gypsy and traveller sites.

“If this succeeds it could put the process back by some two and a half years.”

Officers, backed up by Mr Dawe, warned accepting the motion would require the local plan to be withdrawn, potentially causing the district to lose control of determining future applications.

They had sought advice from a top barrister, who had told them they could not simply shift housing from one location to another without tearing up the current plan.

Such a decision would be ‘reckless’ and ‘irresponsible’, according to some councillors, with a setback likely to be up to two and a half years.

On the opposite side of the debate, supporters said the current plan was ‘ill-conceived’ and would create ‘Crosham’ – with the North Horsham plan closing the gap between Horsham and Crawley.

They said the worries of the objectors to the motion were ‘mays’ and the new plan, including 2,500 homes at Southwater instead, could be drawn up by the end of the year.

In supporting the motion, Mr Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East) said: “I was told by the leader if I did support the motion I would be sacked. Rather than give him the satisfaction I am resigning (my cabinet post) with immediate effect and I am disappointed he felt it necessary to sack me.”

For further background click here.

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