Letter: Horsham planning ‘in favour of developers’

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The WSCT (online February 2) reports that ‘the council and housing associations in Horsham are struggling to find enough affordable homes for low-income households, according to new housing data’ and that ‘no new homes for social rent were built in 2016-2017’.

This disturbing report throws in to sharp relief the enormity of Horsham District Council’s decision last year to accept 18 per cent affordable housing, instead of the 35 per cent required by policy, for the development ‘North of Horsham’.

See story: Not enough affordable homes in Horsham to meet demand, new figures show

Consequently, the 2,750 new houses and a business park permitted for this site will deliver 495 affordable homes instead of the required 963.

In deciding the application (May 2017), the district council accepted the developer’s position that the development could only provide 18 per cent affordable homes on grounds of financial viability even though it came to light during the debate that the viability appraisal was out of date and therefore in need of a reassessment - with the likelihood that a new appraisal would show that the site could deliver more than 18 per cent affordable homes.

Tellingly, however, there was a consensus among councillors that should the council defer permitting the application, in order to enable the site’s financial viability to be reassessed using up-to-date data and projections, the developer, enabled by the NPPF, would secure permission at Appeal.

There is a political dimension to this shaming episode that should neither be ignored nor forgotten. The developer’s stance and application of financial viability is enabled by policies imposed by central government to favour developers, and by the planning regime, which has been maintained and reinforced since 2010 by successive administrations.

Will Horsham MP Jeremy Quin draw the Secretary of State for Housing’s attention to this shaming example of how his Government’s policies have been exploited to the detriment of low-income families?

Dr R.F. Smith

Trustee, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) Sussex, Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield