As the date for the Planning Inspector’s renewed hearings on the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) on 3 July draws close many residents must be struck by the mounting sense of chaos and confusion surrounding the whole process of approving the Plan, compounded by the council’s typical refusal to lift the veil of secrecy shrouding its intentions.
A conspicuous example of this is HDC’s failure to give any indication of what changes it is considering to the revised Plan (published as recently as March) consequent on the collapse in May of one of its crucial pillars, the proposed university campus on the former Novartis site.
Although the chief executive of HDC has publicly conceded that this must require further adjustment to the Plan ‘to satisfy the District’s housing and employment needs’, it remains a mystery as to what alternative options are being considered – or what chance, if any, the ordinary public will be given to express a view on them.
The rising discontent with the process now extends to many members of the newly elected, Tory-dominated council itself, such that a motion is being proposed at its meeting of 24 June to delete the North Horsham Strategic Development from the Plan in favour of an alternative proposal to relocate the 2,500 homes elsewhere.
Regardless of the merits of this alternative, if the motion were to be carried it would open the door to a vitally necessary opportunity to redesign the HDPF from first principles – i.e. based on a transparent consideration of the realistic options, which would reflect both the genuine needs and aspirations of the community and objectively determined economic reality.
Cllr Dawe and his colleagues will doubtless continue to repeat their mantra that failure to adopt the HDPF in more or less its present form without delay would expose us to the threat of large-scale, indiscriminate development across the District.
What this argument ignores is that pressing ahead with this manifestly unsound Plan is likely to involve many months if not years of further delay in any case.
This is because a) approval of the NHSD could not now proceed without a protracted in-depth traffic study fully assessing all the costs and benefits associated with the development, as belatedly mandated under the revised Plan (Main Modification 23), and / or b) there exists a very real threat of the Plan being subjected to Judicial Review in view of its many flaws that have yet to be addressed – which could also potentially entail considerable cost to the council and taxpayers.
What the real motivation of the council leadership may be in pressing ahead in such haste with this manifestly defective plan can only be guessed at.
We are, however, entitled to suspect that if it had anything to do with its potentially positive effects on the local community, rather than alien commercial interests, it would have been revealed to us by now.
Allingham Gardens, Horsham
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