After a debate lasting more than three hours last night (Wednesday March 18), Horsham District Council approved higher housing numbers to be included in its housing blueprint document.
The council chamber gallery was packed with residents and representatives from developers to watch a passionate debate where councillors were asked to support key changes in the Horsham District Planning Framework.
It followed the planning inspector’s initial report compiled after the public examination in November.
In it he said the council had to find space for another 2,000 homes on top of the 13,000 already included in the HDPF. The changes agreed last night will see the new builds increase from 650 homes across the district each year to at least 750 homes. This takes into account overspill from Crawley as well as some to cater for population growth on the South Coast.
Cabinet member for living and working communities Claire Vickers told members: “Without a new plan based on the National Policy Planning Framework we are totally open to speculative applications from developers.
“Applications will continue to be lost on appeal at a significant cost to our tax-payers both in monetary terms and the lack of community facilities. This will continue until we have a plan in place.
“However we also know, that unlike most other authorities, we are now just shy of having a sound Plan.
“Once we have it in place it will enable us to remove our five year housing supply shortfall and regain control of development within our district.”
The chamber was divided as some councillors, many representing wards in the north of the district, refused to support the modifications until they had seen all the population projections - data which they heard could be released in a matter of days.
Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Frances Haigh, who put forward a motion to delay the vote for two to three weeks, said: “We cannot put this out to consultation without having all the evidence in front of us.
“You have given us the conclusions, but not the evidence.”
She later added: “We want to be sure this plan is sound. Whatever we think about North Horsham, there’s a risk it would not be found sound (without this evidence).”
Her motion to defer was lost and after members had all had their say there was a recorded vote in which the recommendations to up the housing numbers were passed by 21 votes to 11. Four councillors abstained while eight were absent.
Councillors were assured if the additional evidence gave rise to an major changes needed in the HDPF, it will be brought back to full council for further debate.
The HDPF Main Modifications, Sustainability Appraisal and amended Proposals Map will be published for a six-week period of representation to the planning inspector from March 23 to May 5.
Following this, the responses will be submitted to the inspector, who will make the final judgement on the soundness of the Plan.