Delay to Horsham local plan is confirmed

Horsham’s local plan has been delayed due to an ‘unforeseeable’ announcement by the government’s advisor on the natural environment.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 2:18 pm
Water abstraction in West Sussex is having an impact on protected sites in the Arun Valley

An updated draft strategy was due to be signed off for public representation in July, but was postponed to take into account of new government requirements around producing a 30-year vision.

The local plan was set to be discussed again at meetings in November, but this week Horsham District Council has confirmed a further delay due to a position statement from Natural England.

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A HDC spokesman said: “The position statement explains that it cannot be concluded that current water abstraction within the Sussex North Water Supply Zone, which includes Horsham district, is not having an impact on sites in the Arun Valley that are internationally designated for rare habitat protection.

“It advises that development, such as new homes and new commercial buildings, within this zone must not add to this impact.

“Of particular concern is the threatened extinction of the Lesser Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail, which is particularly susceptible to changes in water levels in the Arun Valley. More information can be found at www.horsham.gov.uk/planning/water-neutrality-in-horsham-district

“The council is therefore unable to ensure a sound and legally compliant local plan until more is known about the impacts on the Arun Valley ‘Special Area of Conservation’, and until a water neutrality strategy for the area is developed.

“It has been working and continues to work with other affected local authorities Crawley Borough Council, Chichester District Council, South Downs National Park and West Sussex County Council as well as Southern Water, Natural England and the Environment Agency on the issue of water neutrality as part of its local plan evidence base

“Due to the unprecedented nature of this unexpected set of circumstances, we will need to wait until this partnership work is further progressed before the local plan can be published (the ‘Regulation 19’ consultation stage). The council will update the local plan timetable as soon as it is able to do so.”

Meanwhile this week, ecologist Jane Sears, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, told the County Times: “RSPB manages two internationally important wetland reserves in the Arun Valley which hold important populations of breeding waders, wintering waterfowl, aquatic plants and invertebrates.

“We are very concerned by the issues they already face including a lack of ground water supply and poor water quality, as well as pending changes in flood bank management and increased salinity which will fundamentally alter the communities they support.

“We are working with Natural England and the Environment Agency to address these issues both locally and nationally.”

Meanwhile a statement from Southern Water said: “Southern Water is aware that individual councils have issued statements on this issue and has been working together with these council’s on long-term solutions for water neutrality.

“Southern Water takes planning for new developments in its catchment area seriously and plans in accordance with water industry regulations and standards.

“Southern Water’s Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP) incorporates the most accurate population and local plan housing growth forecasts that are available to ensure that the company proactively plans and manages future risks to its customers and the environment. Southern Water is currently working on the next long term WRMP which will outline how the business plans to maintain security of supply for its customers beyond 2024.