LETTER: Consultation was riddled with holes

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So we prematurely conclude HDC’s consultation of Cllr Vickers’ plans to move 82 per cent (now only 500 houses instead of the planned 2,750 in September 2012) of housing out of her electoral ward (Southwater) and those other Southern wards where sycophantic Tory councillors have become so keen to support her plan.

It was interesting that Cllr Dawe did not speak at the full meeting of HDC on 30th April save for opposing the amendment which would have deferred the matter and allowed the production of a shorter five year housing land supply (pending a decision on Gatwick).

Given that he is the main driving force behind this flawed plan, why did he not speak – We reflect for a moment and it becomes clear… of course Cllr Dawe represents another southern ward - Storrington.

When the consultation was held last year on the Preferred Strategy, HDC did not have a meaningful consultation as neighbouring councils did with exhibitions, drop in centres, road-shows.

The first two weeks of the consultation was lost because it took place in August – the holiday season. Despite being asked to host a public meeting (not a ‘meeting in public’) leaders Cllrs Dawe and Croft (cabinet member for communications) refused. Cllr Dawe gives the impression that he is happiest working behind the scenes, pulling the strings but does not like face-to-face contact with the public.

Over 1,861 people replied to the consultation. These democratic voices were then dismissed by Cllr Vickers and Cllr Mathews (Henfield). The latter was reported in your paper on 11 December 2013 (WSCT Horsham edition 19.12.13) dismissing more than 1,861 residents’ concerns over Cllrs Dawe, Vickers, Rae and Croft Preferred Strategy on housing and industrial/warehouse development: ‘...with the greater population I assume the vast silent majority support the way HDC is evolving’.

A conclusion such as this beggars the intelligence of clear thinking people.

Your paper has printed several excellent letters about this current consultation:

- The exhibition in an obscure address in Swan Walk (up the back alley that few find let alone go to)

- Opening times unsuitable to many working people with families and closed during lunchtime (!)

- Manned by people who, according to your correspondents, gave differing and unreliable answers depending which one you spoke to

- Prowled by Cllr Vickers, giving a political spin on her plan rather than the independent view on planning law view one expects from an elected council officer.

The consultation wasn’t allowed to run for the full six weeks, ending as it did at 4pm on 27 June, when it could easily have run to midnight giving people the Friday night to respond. Comments are still not processed yet, so the early finish was clearly not to allow for that.

The means of responding through HDC’s website ‘Portal’ was extremely complicated – especially for the older demographic of North Horsham and those not familiar with computers. A separate downloaded three page form per Policy was clumsy – and only gave an allowance of 100 words - reduced by half from the 200 words for those using the Portal.

It all seemed to be for the convenience of HDC and as off-putting as possible to residents. I had many residents writing to me telling me how hard they had found it. Why didn’t Cllr Helena Croft (Roffey North, cabinet member for Horsham town and Communications) seek to remedy this?

The whole thing is riddled with holes, populated and driven by vested interests and smeared in a patina of secrecy. I fear this is a shameful attack on democracy worthy of many other nations we could name but not worthy of our own.

Jonathan Dancer

Avebury Close, Horsham