Buck Barn a ‘very good location for development right in middle of Horsham district’

The developer promoting 3,500 West Grinstead homes near the A24 Buck Barn junction has responded to campaigners’ criticisms.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 4:29 pm
Thakeham Group's Pease Pottage development
Thakeham Group's Pease Pottage development

Thakeham Group, privately owned and based in Billingshurst, is currently delivering a new scheme for more than 600 homes at Pease Pottage.

Rob Boughton, the company’s chief executive officer, felt the Woodgate development between Horsham and Crawley was a ‘good showcase’ for how they approach things differently.

All the off-site highways works were completed before any homes were sold, instead of contributing the £1.4m towards a new school they built a £4million facility themselves and have partnered with the Plunkett Foundation so a village shop can be gifted to a community trust to run.

He described their commitment to policy compliant schemes with tenure blind housing and not tucking affordable housing out of the way in the corner.

He contrasted Thakeham’s approach to what has happened at recent large scale housing sites in the district, especially at West of Horsham, where affordable housing targets were missed, infrastructure was not put in place early on and some promised community facilities never materialised.

Mr Boughton said: “We are delivering some lovely schemes across the country and we want to bring those benefits to Horsham.”

Thakeham already delivers homes to high energy standards and has set a target of 2025 when its new properties will be zero carbon in operation.

The housebuilder is also investigating ways of making its production carbon neutral as well as zero carbon placemaking within the developments themselves.

At Wealdcross, its name for the proposed development at Buck Barn, this would involve making it easier to cycle and walk and more difficult to use a car, with shops, schools and community facilities within a close distance.

As well as the main shop other units could be offered up to include a greater diversity of businesses for new residents such as a butcher.

Alongside flexible working spaces commercial units would be built, ranging from offices, to start-up units and warehouses.

Homes could also include bike docking facilities and home-working space at the bottom of gardens to minimise transport movements.

Mr Boughton said: “A lot of thought goes into the places we are making.”

The government wants to see ten per cent biodiversity net gain in new developments, but Thakeham would be aiming for 20 per cent, with the plan at Wealdcross for 4.2km worth of hedges to create new wildlife corridors.

A recent Thakeham scheme in Surrey saw it deliver a 41 per cent increase.

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Referencing fears expressed last week about the development’s impact on the Knepp Estate, he said they were aware of the ‘wonderful’ conservation work going on there, but noted how the A24 was a ‘real barrier to that wildlife’.

Their plans included hedgehog homes, bee and bird boxes, wetland habitat and protection of ancient and ordinary woodland.

He also said they were not averse to talking to Knepp about the possibility of some form of wildlife bridge.

Mr Boughton said: “I fully accept housing built next to existing residents most times is not going to be popular, but fundamentally let’s get the facts straight.”

He was asked why this particular development site should be allocated in Horsham District Council’s local plan.

In response he pointed to the site’s location just off the A24, with their plans including improvements to eight junctions up and down the route.

If given the go ahead they would work with Metrobus to put in place a sustainable bus service to Horsham’s railway station.

He added: “It’s a very good location as its right in the middle of the Horsham district.”

The scheme includes two primary schools and a secondary and he believes this would take the pressure off both The Weald in Billingshurst and Steyning Grammar.

It would also be on the Downslink for cyclists and pedestrians.

The developer would meet the council’s 35 per cent affordable housing target and this could even rise to 40.

Thakeham would also look to provide a range and mix of housing types, from bungalows to apartments and family homes.

Some consultation events have already been held, but they would continue to engage with the public as the project progresses.

While he acknowledged they ‘are not going to turn everybody’ he argued future housing had to go somewhere and a new settlement would reduce the number of bolt-ons to existing villages across the district without the scale to deliver large-scale benefits.

Mr Boughton concluded: “We care passionately about the place we all live and work in. Housing has to be delivered but we do it in a very different fashion.”