It has been agreed that Horsham District Council’s proposals on housing and planning policy will go out to public consultation.
The final document will be a very important one for the district; not only will it define where future houses go and what jobs come with them, but it will set out the policies that enable the council to control development, to get the development that meets the needs of the district. If the policies are right, the interests of the people of the district can be safeguarded; if not, it may not be possible to prevent the type of development that neither you nor I want.
At present the proposals are too woolly, comprise too many aspirational statements of a general nature, lack specific objectives, and lack policies that provide confidence that they will deliver what is wanted.
This situation has arisen because of the earlier drawn out process, the six or seven month pause and the last minute rush to publish.
The council used to have strategic planning expertise at director level. It no longer has that, but it needs it.
It also needs stability and continuity within senior management below director level, but has not had that over the last year or so.
Through the coming year, during which these housing policies will be finalised, stability and continuity must be maintained. In due course this important part of the council needs to be made much stronger.
When the new housing strategy has been finally approved, the council must then ensure that the district actually gets the things that the policies are designed to deliver; affordable homes, sensibly priced market homes, local jobs, improved towns and villages and better transport infrastructure.
Developers must not be allowed to run rings round the council. This will require strong, capable and experienced management.
It will involve genuine and effective joint working with developers. The council must have a team that matches the developers in ability and experience. It does not at present.
Dr DAVID HOLMES
Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Horsham District Council and district councillor for Horsham Park