New blueprint caps housing in Southwater and Billingshurst

JPCT-15-09-11 SC11380173a Southwater countryside,  between New Road and Southwater Primary School -photo by steve cobb
JPCT-15-09-11 SC11380173a Southwater countryside, between New Road and Southwater Primary School -photo by steve cobb

An historic housing plan is being drawn up for the Horsham District which would bring to an end fears of sprawling developments wrecking village life, the County Times can reveal.

The threat of thousands of extra homes at Southwater and Billingshurst looks set to be stopped in its tracks while development in north Horsham would be nearly halved from 4,500 homes to 2,500.

At the heart of the new proposals - which would see 575 homes per year built on average to 2031 - residents will for the first time be given a genuine opportunity to help shape the future of their district.

In the life of the plan, housing will be limited to a total of just 500 homes across much of the District - with neighbourhoods themselves determining what they need and where and the kind of infrastructure it will help fund. These are expected to be small-scale, high quality builds focussed on local needs avoiding any danger of sprawling additions to communities like Storrington.

Billingshurst has one appeal outstanding for 510 homes - but no additional housing is envisaged beyond this number.

Similarly Southwater will see housing capped at 500 homes and moved away from the most sensitive areas such as the grade 2* listed farmhouse and surrounds.

Both Billingshurst and Southwater had faced the threat of thousands of new buildings.

North Horsham will see the bulk of the development - with a state of the art business park vital to economic growth within the area, a new railway station with extensive parking, and a superstore.

A hospital and the consequent additional housing that that would have entailed is not earmarked following its effective rejection by commissioning GPs last month.

The County Times is able to exclusively reveal the plans on the eve of a meeting at Rydon School in Storrington on Friday evening organised by Stop Storrington Sprawl.

It is clear that this blueprint once formally approved and adopted would remove any subsequent danger of significant sprawl in this village - although risks remain in the interim from planning appeals.

The proposals, still confidential, were revealed to Conservative councillors at a private group meeting on Monday.

Sources suggested that there was widespread support for the approach - although two North Horsham councillors Peter Burgess and Christian Mitchell are expected to be strongly opposed to the development on the doorstep of their wards.

They have been principled and passionate objectors to major housebuilding there and are likely to express their concerns strongly.

But other councillors believe that a high-spec business park is essential for quality job creation, especially in this location so close to Gatwick.

A new railway station - which could be sustained in addition to the one at Littlehaven - will be seen as extremely welcome.

There will also be a renewed emphasis on providing a range of housing that will enhance the area. This will include aspirational homes for growing families, 250 self-build homes, and green areas, all of which it is hoped will complement nearby established housing.

The quantity of low cost housing will almost certainly be reduced from the current contentiously high levels of 40 per cent but will still form an important part of the development ensuring provision is made for local young people seeking the first step on the housing ladder.

The 20-year housing plan is due for presentation and discussion at a council meeting on July 25. It will then go through a period of consultation and is then subject to examination by another Government inspector.

Until the process is concluded and a final plan is in place, the district remains vulnerable to speculative planning applications that can be won on appeal despite the council’s objections.

Ray Dawe, the leader of the council, along with Horsham MP Francis Maude, has been a huge advocate of seeking to limit greenfield development.

Earlier on Monday they met with the Government minister responsible for housing Nick Boles to put the point that Horsham District already has nearly 7,000 existing permissions for new homes and yet is under strong pressure from developers pushing to build on land that the council regards as unsustainable. When the council turns these plans down they get granted on appeal - often with the loss of community contributions from the developer.

Mr Dawe said: “I was very pleased that the minister was able to meet Francis Maude and me. Mr Boles was very interested to hear our case and has asked us to supply more information. He has said that he wants to examine the situation in our District to ensure that the inspectors are correctly applying the rules and will then organise another meeting.”