A judicial review could be launched by the town’s parish council aimed at stopping massive housing building north of Horsham.
North Horsham Parish Council agreed to a £30,000 budget for legal expenses as they seek legal advice on the ‘appropriateness, lawfulness and viability’ of Horsham District Council’s Local Plan on Thursday September 3.
Plans for thousands of homes north of the A264 have caused controversy since they were revealed in 2012, and the parish council has held a number of public meetings to inform residents and give them a forum to share their views.
Simon Torn, both a Horsham district and North Horsham parish councillor, explained that although the total budget was £30,000, the QC may advise that there is no case ‘in which case that will be the end of it’, costing them far less. If they are told it is worth pursuing they would take their case to a judge and he would either tell them to forget it or to proceed.
Peter Burgess, also a Horsham district councillor, said: “If he says go ahead it’s a good indication we have a case. The other thing is to get approval to get costs restricted to the maximum of £10,000.”
Ray Turner added: “Initially our commitment is not that great, but we need to have a substantial budget if there is real value for us going for a judicial review.”
Tony Rickett, expressed initial concern that costs could rise, and that the discussion was becoming political.
He said: “This is not our money at the end of the day, it’s residents’ money and we have to be seen to be spending it wisely. If we spend £60/70,000 need I say more?”
Karen Burgess pointed out that around 3,500 people had signed a petition opposing development at North Horsham, while Nik Butler felt they were the ‘backstop in the conversation in providing the community with a voice’.
If they only spent a small amount of the £30,000 and did not progress with a judicial review, Mr Butler argued that they should look at alternative uses for the money to make the area ‘more pleasant’.
Mr Torn explained that since NHPC’s local plan committee recommended the sum of £30,000 their barrister had changed chambers, meaning that the upper end cost may be closer to £40,000, but other parish councils might want to contribute or individuals may also wish to do so.
Mr Burgess added: “I’m concerned with whatever happens there is going to be so large, it was 2,500, it’s now 2,750, 4,500 was the original and that is still there, and I’ve heard 6,000 from people. The whole of Horsham will freeze.”
Roger Wilton, chairman of the parish council, said: “We are trying to represent out constituents in the best way we can.”
HDC’s planning framework for 650 homes a year up to 2031, which included North Horsham and West of Southwater as strategic sites, was approved for consultation in April 2014.
It was then scrutinised by a planning inspector during nine days of examination hearings in November. An initial report was released just before Christmas telling the council to up its housing target to at least 750 homes a year.
Examination then resumed in July, but not before a notice of motion aiming to delete the North Horsham scheme was put forward by members of the council’s Tory group and then defeated.
The inspector then sent a letter to HDC setting the target to at least 800 homes a year. He has yet to publish his final report.
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