As Horsham becomes swamped with housing, readers’ letters rightly bemoan the creeping urbanisation of our lovely district.
They also write about the minimal infrastructure that always seems to accompany it.
Of course, they’re absolutely right. But, let’s be clear, the primary fault for this does not lie with Horsham District Council, but with the government’s imposition of ‘excessive’ housing targets. Don’t be fooled by the mirage of Neighbourhood Plan empowerment, falsely marketed under the guise of localism, we are powerless to stem the tide.
In last week’s WSCT, Dr. R. Smith (CPRE) pointed out the unfairness of the latest government ploy ‘The Housing Delivery Test’ which penalises councils when developers fail to build-out their housing permissions. This follows on from ‘The Housing Needs Formula’ imposed onto councils, potentially increasing the housebuilding target for Horsham district from 800 to 1,000 (or more) homes each year.
The government has spent considerable effort in ‘cooking-up’ these formulas and tests. Again, to be fair to HDC planners, they vehemently objected to them, saying: “Our concerns are so significant that we consider that the flaws with the proposed methodology for calculating housing numbers, together with a lack of available sites and supporting infrastructure will actually generate the indiscriminate, unplanned and unwelcome development that the government is seeking to avoid”.
A joint Mid Sussex/Horsham delegation was even despatched to Westminster to see the then Housing Minister supported by the council leaders and the two local MPs.
Despite this representation our MPs failed to get any change whatsoever to the formula, and so must take full responsibility for the ‘concreting over’ of our countryside.
Perhaps Jeremy Quin MP will kindly explain where another strategic development of similar size to the massive North of Horsham site can be conveniently located to satisfy the government’s mandatory targets?
At the same time UK housebuilders are reporting record 2018 profits, notably Persimmon Homes who turned in a £1bn profit having also paid their now departed CEO £75m.
The BBC reported - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47368308 - ‘‘a source close to Housing Minister James Brokenshire said the minister was ‘increasingly concerned’ by Persimmon’s practices, including its use of leasehold contracts, the quality of its buildings and its leadership’’.
So, will the government now show similar urgency to introduce formulas and tests to penalise these apparent abuses by their ‘friends’ in the (volume) house building industry?
Don’t hold your breath. The consideration of political party donations might just get in the way.
Cox Green, Rudgwick