Francis Maude: Two sides to the Horsham housing debate

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

A two parter this week. First, a word about the proposed north of Horsham housing development.

And, no, I’m afraid I am not going to say whether I’m for or against it. Decisions about planning applications are always hard, and they should be made in the first instance by the local council. Of course there are generally two sides, and it is not always the side which shouts loudest which prevails. I get lots of letters from people, mainly younger, concerned that they can’t afford to live in the area they grew up in. House prices have got higher and higher in the Horsham area, and there is a need for more of it.

But any big new housing development has opponents. Most of the opponents of the north of Horsham project live in north Horsham itself. Many live in houses that didn’t exist fifty years ago. I remember when I first was elected MP for Horsham in 1997 many of the houses in north Horsham were very new. The council then had taken controversial decisions to permit new development. Those decisions have contributed greatly to Horsham being the thriving successful town it is today.

So I’m not going to criticise the council for having made this decision. There is a huge demand for more housing. Plenty of people want to live in or near Horsham, and the council’s task is to ensure that there is housing being built to meet that need, while doing it in a way that protects those features of the area that make people want to live here.

And you can never please everyone. Horsham Football Club is a case in point. It is a popular cause, having been homeless for some years now, and previous attempts for it to find a home have failed. Now there seems to be a solution on a site near the Hop Oast roundabout south of the town. Surely no one will object to that? Well yes, some do. Some came to see me to express their opposition. I said what I always will, which is that I will ensure that their views are heard by the council, along with messages of support for the scheme. Then the council can make its decision in full awareness of all the concerns.

That’s what localism is about.

This week’s second part concerns spending cuts. Another unpopular topic? Not in this case. Last week I announced that in 2013-2014 the Government saved £14.3 billion through cutting waste. We have to cut spending so that we don’t load up ever more debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off. But the place to start is with our own costs in government. So - a smaller Civil Service, releasing property we don’t need, buying better, moving services online, cutting waste on big projects - all this added up last year to nearly £800 savings for every household in Britain. As was once said, a billion here, a billion there: every little helps. Pretty soon it’s serious money!