Horsham District Council leader warns of ‘consequences’ before housing showdown


Horsham District Council’s Tory leader has warned of ‘consequences’ if amendments to its housing plan are approved.

Two of Ray Dawe’s own Conservative backbenchers have tabled a Notice of Motion for next week’s Full Council meeting which proposes deleting the 2,500-home plan for North Horsham from HDC’s planning framework.

Instead the homes would be allocated elsewhere in the north of the district, and a total of 17 councillors have signed the tabling of the motion.

Responding to the move Mr Dawe (Con, Chantry) said: “Let us be under no illusion. If this motion is carried, then it will not change the fact that we will still get the housing developments proposed in the HDPF but many more and lose both the community benefits that could be negotiated along with the levy on developers designed to help build new infrastructure (CIL).”

“The reality is that the council does not choose the house building numbers nor does it make the rules and I understand that councillors may not like the housing that is planned. However, I urge each of them to consider very carefully the full consequences of approving this motion. Every community will be affected if the motion is approved.”

The implications of amending the Horsham District Planning Framework at this stage have been spelt out to members in a briefing note, which has been prepared after advice from a leading planning QC.

According to the council this would leave HDC without an adopted plan for at least two-and-a-half years, would mean that development on vulnerable and greenfield sites would be very difficult to resist, while HDC would be unable to implement a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charging regime to provide funds for infrastructure across the district.

Examination hearings were held in November where planning inspector Geoff Salter scrutinised HDC’s local plan. In his initial report released just before Christmas he told HDC to up its housing target from 13,000 to at least 15,000 new homes up to 2031.

Main modifications to the plan were approved in March for consultation and the inspector is due to re-start the examination hearings on Friday July 3.

But following local elections last month Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East) proposed the Notice of Motion for the meeting on Wednesday June 24 and Jonathan Dancer (Con, Roffey North) seconded it.

Under the proposed amendments the allocation west of Southwater would increase from around 600 homes to 2,500, with around 500 units included east of the A24 at Kingsfold.

Speaking to the County Times last week Mrs Burgess said: “Jonathan and I both feel, along with a sizeable group of other councillors that this housing plan is wrong. It 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.

“Losing the northern boundary of Horsham and the strategic gap robs the entire district of the protection it provides from coalescence between Horsham and Crawley and the villages and hamlets in-between.

“It is not something we should undertake lightly as it will impact upon the lives of those in the towns and the villages in the North and South.”

Mr Dancer added: “A year ago, neither of us had any intention of entering politics. We were so shocked at the undemocratic way this plan has been pushed through that we put ourselves before the electorate to help make a change.”

“When a plan is bad, you know it. Everyone knows it – nearly 3,000 people have signed a petition saying they know it.”

He continued: “I am concerned that as a council, we risk giving away £20m of our own taxpayers’ money to foreign investors by sacrificing the CIL contribution that such a large development should usually bring to the benefit of the wider district.”

But in a briefing note sent to all councillors Chris Lyons, HDC’s director of planning, economic development and property, warned that a number of sites across the Horsham district would be vulnerable to development if the motion was approved next Wednesday.

These include Hayes Lane, Slinfold; land east of Rusper Road, near Ifield; land to rear of Sandhills Road, Barns Green; land at Small Dole; land at Melton Drive, Storrington; land west of Broadbridge Heath; extension Kilnwood Vale; Hornbrook Farm (near Hilliers), Horsham; land at Pound Lane, Upper Beeding.

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