Alarm over the strategic rating

I was alarmed to hear that Southwater had taken pole position in the list of strategic developments sites being considered.

I tracked this down to an ‘Analysis of Strategic Site Options’ presented to the Strategic Planning Advisory Group (SPAG) in September.

This in particular lists the candidate sites, and for each marks its suitability against various criteria. It allocates up to ten for timetable, location and ‘plan led’, and up to three for benefits and environmental comparisons.

What most alarmed me was the insistence by Horsham District Council that the ‘Spread Throughout District’ option has absolutely no merit in any criteria – being awarded one mark in all of them.

I feel this highlights the real position of HDC, dismissing all criteria because of a perceived lack of planning control, or actual lack of planning effort.

Since there is already a ‘Plan Led Approach’ criteria, that aspect of assessing the spread development option should NOT have influenced a realistic assessment of each of the other criteria.

How can ‘Spread development’:

Be eight times worse than Southwater or Billingshurst in terms of delivery timeframe? In the past few years it has been the smaller developments that have moved forward, with large developers having the resources to wait for the good times.

Be five or six times worse in terms of location in the district?

Given the likely distributed nature of such developments, one should expect a reasonable range of location suitability.

Have zero plan led benefit?

It COULD be planned – it just has not been – this value only reflects HDC’s lack of work on such developments, not their actual merit.

Have inevitably no additional benefits?

The only sites that have meet HDC’s own 40 per cent affordable target have been smaller sites, NOT the strategic ones. Development in the smaller communities could support the continued viability of local retail, schooling and medical resources, currently under threat in many places.

Have absolutely the worse Landscape, Ecology, Water Quality and Flooding criteria?

Again this is being overly coloured by the lack of any work on such sites.

Be inevitably worse than all other sites in terms of Infrastructure and Transport?

Contributions to both would fiscally be very similar to large site development, with some of the small developments expected to use existing, underutilised resources.

A more reasonable approach would be to assess similar small ‘distributed’ sites already developed (such as Millfield in Southwater) and compare on a realistic basket of sites.

Horsham might find, as other districts do, that putting all the eggs in one (or three) baskets hands control to the developers: for ‘Plan Led’ read ‘Developer Led’.


Tower Hill, Horsham