Horsham District Council considers its housing policy on Thursday July 25. The proposals that will go out to consultation have merit but serious short comings must be addressed.
The number of homes to be built each year is a lower and more realistic total than before; this is welcome. It is also good that they are not all to be built in one place but at several sites with some, albeit very few, earmarked to meet the needs of smaller settlements.
However, the plan is seriously weak in several areas.
Homes that people can afford. Our young people, and people we need to work in the District, need homes that they can afford. The document says that we need to provide 240/year but fails to provide assurance that they would be provided. Our previously unachieved target was 40 per cent of homes to be affordable.
Some other councils have a target of 50 per cent. Forty per cent of 575 is 230, but in practice a lot less affordable homes are provided as the requirement from small sites is less, and many developers wriggle out of providing even the required level.
The target has now been reduced to 35 per cent. This will provide a lot less than 200 affordable homes. Existing strategic sites are already providing less than 40 per cent, the proposed North of Horsham development might, I understand, provide only 20 per cent; and that would fall further if development costs rise and they usually do. No plan should be finalised until we know how 240 affordable homes/year will be secured.
Through effective joint working with developers we must also secure the right mix of market homes with a significant number priced so young working families can afford them.
Ensuring Horsham remains a good place to live. In addition to providing the mix of homes that we require, the plan must also maintain the attractiveness of our main market town, Horsham, as a place to visit and in which to live.
Further growth of the town will help to ensure that we continue to have a vibrant centre with quality restaurants and a good selection of shops at a time when shops are closing elsewhere.
However this will require much better bus links in to the town from where people live and adequate and affordable town centre parking. It must not become harder to visit the town. Any development north of Horsham must be part of Horsham with the town centre easy to access. The plan does not ensure this.
Providing local employment now –not in 20 years. Horsham must not become just a housing estate from which people commute elsewhere to work. Having much more local employment must be an essential part of the plan.
Already a very high proportion commutes to work outside of the District. The proposal to have a business park is therefore welcomed.
However it must be the right size and provide the required number of jobs. The plan must explain why 500,000 sq ft is the right figure and give some commitment to provide a specific number of jobs. Clarity about when these jobs would become available is also needed. They are required in the next five years, not in 20 years time.
Everyone should let the council know their views. The proposals will be reworked before the final plan is produced next year. We all need the final proposals to be right, fit for purpose, meeting the needs of the people of the District.
Dr DAVID HOLMES
Leader of Liberal Democrats on Horsham District Council, North Street, Horsham