‘Inadequate’ consultation is still ‘once only opportunity’

How much housing does Horsham need?
How much housing does Horsham need?

A CONSULTATION on the district’s housing needs has been branded ‘not fit for purpose’ by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (see below).

However, despite its inadequacies, the Horsham and Crawley District branch of the environmental organisation is urging people to participate, citing it as a ‘once only opportunity for residents’.

Roger Smith, speaking on behalf of CPRE Sussex, argues it is of paramount importance people take part in Horsham District Council’s consultation ‘How Much Housing Does Horsham District Need?’ before the April 10 closing date.

Residents are being asked to think about their community’s housing needs over the next 20 years, and give their preferred option for the number of houses to be built each year.

As previously reported in this paper, the four options range from a minimum of 590 homes per year, to a maximum of 730 per year, this latter option equating to a total of 14,600+ over the next two decades, a sum well in excess of the now defunct South East Plan.

Whilst many have already criticised the consultation for not giving a ‘none of the above’ option, or an option with lower housing numbers, Dr Smith insists that these criticisms should not deter people from giving their opinion.

In mind of the capacity of this consultation’s outcome to irrevocably change the Horsham district, Dr Smith is calling for residents to disregard those who say the number of houses has already been determined, or that the consultation is just a sham.

He added: “They should ignore anyone saying that the views of those who disagree with the four ‘Options’ offered by HDC will be ignored by the council’s decision makers.”

Dr Smith was adamant people power could sway the result of this consultation, giving the example of how HDC could not dismiss the views of the many that rejected the local authority’s Draft Interim Statement with its proposals to develop countryside adjoining Billingshurst and Southwater.

He said: “HDC has to consult with the public on this issue. It cannot simply override or dismiss the results of this consultation should the majority of responders either select the lowest ‘Option’ on offer or specify a lower house-building target.”

Dr Smith added that if people do not respond then the council ‘can do as they wish’.

The consultation closes at 4.20pm on April 10, 2012. For more information and to take part, visit www.horsham.gov.uk