COUNTY TIMES COMMENT: A tale of two parties

JPCT-04-01-12 S12010471a north horsham development area from north looking south, langhurstwood road  -photo by steve cobb ENGSNL00120120401121454
JPCT-04-01-12 S12010471a north horsham development area from north looking south, langhurstwood road -photo by steve cobb ENGSNL00120120401121454

It’s hard to believe that just a month ago the Conservatives secured a landslide victory at Horsham District Council.

In theory, with no opposition to speak of - just four very reasonable members of the Lib Dems and one Independent - the council should be forging ahead with plans to better the lives of those who live and work in the district.

Yet in a matter of weeks the ruling party once again finds itself in utter turmoil.

In a statement issued today, the council admits that the future of a plan led approach to development across Horsham district could be jeopardised depending on the result of a debate on a motion to amend the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) at next week’s council meeting (Wednesday June 24).

“The motion seeks to make significant changes to the decision of council on 18 March 2015, which approved Main Modifications to the HDPF that had been approved by council on 30 April 2014.

“Although the motion proposes that the amendments, together with a revised sustainability appraisal, are submitted to the Inspector as part of the examination of the HDPF, in reality the HDPF would have to be withdrawn if the motion is approved.”

The truth is - as this newspaper has repeatedly pointed out in the past four years - there is not one Conservative Party at HDC, but two.

The larger of the two supplied by the South Downs and run by leader Ray Dawe and his narrow choice of cabinet is pushing in one direction on the vexed issue of housing.

The slightly smaller Horsham-town based alternative Conservative Party is determined to fight every step of the way to stop the massive development at North Horsham.

If Mr Dawe wishes to unite the two warring factions back into the one Conservative Party residents thought they were electing, he urgently requires a broad-based cabinet that embraces all shades of opinion - with downland and town represented in equal measure.

In the last council, those who opposed North Horsham were marginalised, punished and excluded. They should have been brought into the heart of decision-making where a plan that satisfied all could be established.

Instead, festering resentment led to two town Tories being effectively deselected - Jim Rae and Helena Croft - by the Horsham Conservative Association.

There is an old saying that you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

There remains a vacancy in cabinet for someone to represent Horsham town and special projects. It’s time it was filled - and by someone capable of standing up for Horsham from the alternative Tory Party at HDC.

Mr Dawe won a strong personal mandate in the district elections. We applaud him for it.

But his real mission to lead with distinction and draw a line under the past has barely begun.

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