Nik Butler: Nothing but a repeat of the last 20 years

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There is a view that Horsham is an immutable idea. One which promises continued rural benefits in tranquil surroundings.

A place free from the influence of commercial corruption. A fairy tale picture viewed through the rose tinted spectacles of commentary.

Horsham is rural; for we have a countryside. Horsham is a market town; for we have farmers. Horsham is a retirement town; for we have step free access. All codswallop though. As my father would say ‘never let the true facts get in the way of a good story’.

As I ruminate on that last sentence I consider what I heard during the recent ‘preferred strategy’ meeting. Horsham needs to be successful, Horsham needs to be accessible, Horsham needs to be popular. Of course Horsham needs to be all those things. We are hardly going to start a planning meeting with the suggestion that we make Horsham less popular, less successful.

None of the presentations delivered were a clear, or consistent, reason for why North Horsham would be better than Billingshurst or Henfield. These were only repeating the statement that Horsham might do better.

The ever-present bogeyman of the planning inspectorate was dangled as a deterrent. Yet I could not help feel that the real concern was that if the bogeyman were let loose houses might be placed where the alternative strategies were already suggesting.

Ironically nothing seems to be changing in the attitude towards economic adjustment. Apparently we need additional offices of a higher quality than those we currently own. According to the presenters we are told that our existing buildings are something that modern business do not want. They are too old, too unusable. Which fails to explain why LucasArts are moving into London offices in Soho or why Shoreditch is seeing an increase in new business? London is booming with old property.

We spent the last 20 years building offices only for big business to leave. Additionally the idea of supporting an internet economy was downplayed to the point of dismissal.

As a businessman in Horsham I find nothing to attract me to new offices with old internet speeds. As a parent I would hope my children could find a place to live here but affordable housing might as well mean rabbit hutch accommodations.

I saw nothing but a repeat of the last 20 years; supporting tradition and avoiding change.

Maybe Horsham is immutable after all.