Horsham District’s infrastructure deficit, highlighted by the controversial decisions reported and rightly described as ‘barmy’ in the WSCT (10 Mar 16), results from an approach to planning for the future that is neither joined up nor intelligent.
How this has come about was made apparent during the examination of the HDPF by Planning Inspector ‘Geoff’ Salter when Mr Salter advised that it was not unusual for local plans with infrastructure-funding shortfalls to be found ‘sound’ by the Inspectorate.
Significantly, too, Mr Salter emphasised that his authority to examine the HDPF came directly from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who required him to facilitate a substantial increase in house building. To which end and responding to the advice of developers he imposed an interim and arbitrary target of 800 houses per year, to be increased to an as yet to be determined number by 2017/18.
Determining whether sufficient funding would be forthcoming to pay for the infrastructure and services needed in consequence of his huge target – and therefore whether his target is truly sustainable - was not required of him by the Secretary of State.
He also acknowledged that Government policies enabled developers to seek and obtain reductions in the payments required of them for infrastructure and affordable homes, either by negotiation or at appeal.
This has resulted in considerable uncertainty for communities and residents across Horsham District and does not augur well for Billingshurst, Southwater, North of Horsham and West of Horsham.
Meanwhile, Government policies and interventions through the Planning Inspectorate have helped developers and house-builders nationally to make substantial profits, as is evidenced by annual company reports.
According to the Ministerial foreword to the NPPF, ‘the purpose of planning is to help to achieve sustainable development. Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations’.
Unfortunately, in Horsham District we have an excessive and imposed house-building target and an infrastructure deficit that is likely to result in worse lives both for ourselves and future generations, thanks to Inspector Salter and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Dr ROGER F. SMITH
For and on behalf of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Sussex (Horsham District), Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield
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