Following the withdrawal of Brighton University from its plan to establish a campus at the redundant Novartis site the chief executive of HDC (Tom Crowley) is quoted in your issue of May 14 as saying ‘we are examining the detailed implications of the university’s announcement in so far as the draft Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) is concerned’.
As well he might, given that the now defunct project has just been included as one of the Main Modifications (MMs) in the revised Plan, currently the subject of a full public consultation, and Mr Crowley has also admitted that the Plan will need to be further adjusted in order to meet the District’s housing and employment needs.
In view of this disruptive development it might have been expected that HDC and / or the Planning Inspector would call for the suspension of the consultation pending the development of a more soundly based plan subject to proper scrutiny by the council – instead of being hastily rubber-stamped and put out for consultation without councillors having seen much of the evidence supposedly justifying it, as happened with the present version at the extraordinary meeting on 18 March.
However, far from learning the lessons of its earlier folly the council appears to be bent on rushing through another half-baked proposal without proper scrutiny – or even the pretence of public consultation.
This seems the only interpretation one can put on the announcement by the Inspector – slipped out on the HDC website at http://www.horsham.gov.uk/planningpolicy/planning-policy/horsham-district-planning-framework-examination (see under Inspectors Documents) on 14 May – that he intends to go ahead with public hearings on the revised Plan on 3 July, when one item on the agenda will be ‘The proposed allocation for the former Novartis site’.
Given Mr Crowley’s simultaneous statement quoted above, this can only mean that the hearing will consider an alternative proposal for the site that has yet to be dreamed up and which can hardly be scrutinised by the newly elected council, let alone subjected to public consultation, before 3 July.
Is it not time for the council to abandon this chaotic and discreditable process, withdraw the current version of the HDPF and start again to prepare a Plan which is based on objective reality and in line with the needs and expressed aspirations of the local community?
If this involves using all available means to resist the anti-social demands of developers with no interest in the welfare of our community – as many local authorities around the country have been prepared to do – then so be it.
Allingham Gardens, Horsham
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