Days after setting out a timetable on a new housing strategy the council ripped it up, moving the process back by at least three months.
Ian Howard (Con, Southwater), cabinet member for living and working communities, and chairman of Horsham District Council’s strategic planning advisory group, told councillors he would recommend 635 new houses per year to a full council meeting on Wednesday October 24 in a new housing strategy for the district.
However just two days later he told councillors and staff that decisions would be delayed until the New Year to deal with a number of issues raised separately by a number of members.
Mr Howard explained: “We need to ensure that the needs of our residents and their children are catered for and to strike the right balance between the features that make the Horsham district a special place to live and ensuring that we provide the homes, jobs and leisure facilities that our communities will require.”
He added that given the amount of detail and discussion required they should allow extra time to assess future housing options. At last Wednesday’s SPAG meeting, it was agreed that the new preferred strategy would go out to public consultation this autumn,with adoption due in the summer of 2014.
Mr Howard told members: “I’m pushing the figure of 635.
“I believe that is a figure we can get past the inspector, and it will also give us the ability to produce 180 or more affordable homes which will be of great benefit to our constituents.”
However councillors voiced their disquiet on how local housing needs were being defined, whether the delivery of a new market town could be speeded up, and if a development west of Ifield could actually be delivered.
The updated locally generated needs study found that 550 houses were required just to meet Horsham district’s own needs and 670 to also respond to the needs of other surrounding areas.
Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest), said that setting high housing numbers to help satisfy neighbouring local authorities needs, because of the duty to cooperate in the Localism Act, would allow other authorities to fail in delivering their own housing numbers.
He added: “I’m concerned that we are being a bit too nice.”
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), thought it was wholly wrong to propose to build more houses than they could actually get built.
She said: “We have to make sure that the number of houses that we agree on we can reasonably accommodate that will not spoil the things that make this a nice place to live.”
Other councillors, including Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) asked if the timescale on the new market town could be moved forward as Mayfield Market Towns told the County Times they could deliver around 2,000 of the 10,000 homes within the planning period up to 2031.
Mr Howard responded: “You could do that on Adversane.”
Mr Donnelly told Mr Howard: “I think your comments on Adversane are very jocular and not appropriate.”
Several members said that a new market town would have to be built on an existing railway line, seemingly precluding development east of Henfield.