LETTER: Signs of history repeating itself

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Liberty’s Kings Hill site (West Malling, Kent) was envisaged to be a mixed development very much like HDC’s plan is for 800 acres of green fields in the Strategic Gap between Horsham and Crawley.

In Kent there was originally to be a 3.8 million sq. ft industrial park – attracting all sorts of industry – just like north Horsham. But the demand was not there at Kings Hill and after 25 years only 0.8million sq. ft of the industrial park has been built and 0.6million sq. ft occupied. Therefore less than a quarter of this industrial park has been taken up. So in 2013 Liberty put in a planning application (for Phase 3) for a change of use from commercial/industrial use to housing.

All the signs are this will happen in north Horsham and the 2,500 houses will grow to 4,500 (which is what Liberty lobbied HDC for in the last public consultation).

Readers may be interested to read the Kings Hill Parish Council’s objection to Liberty’s plan for a change of use from commercial to housing: “TM/13/01535/OAEA - Kings Hill Phase 3 Kings Hill KHPC – Phase 3 Response” and see page 6 of their report (www.kingshillparish.gov.uk/Core/KingsHill-PC/UserFiles/Files/130726%20-%20KHPC%20Response%20%20to%20TMBC%20for%20Phase%203.pdf).

Kings Hill Parish Council’s submission to their district council draws attention to the totally inadequate consultation Liberty held with residents compared with the one the Parish Council subsequently held. The latter raised serious concerns some of which were:

· Inadequate provision for primary education within the community

· Private parking should be adjacent to homes rather than positioned in blocks that foster crime and promote antagonistic behaviours.

· Roads that are too narrow to safely accommodate emergency vehicles and residents’ cars when they are legitimately parked outside their own homes

· Traffic congestion around Kings Hill brought about by roads that are inadequate for the scale of the development

· Bus and train services that actually meet the needs of residents and supported by infrastructure that is designed to cope with public transport

· A central area with a variety of shops rather than one dominant superstore

· Public and visitor parking proportionate with a community of 16,000 residents

· Community amenities of size and quantity to support the diverse needs of 16,000 residents

You may have read the article on page 4 of the June 12 WSCT where residents of Wickhurst Green are complaining about the abysmal lack of car parking spaces. This is what all new developments are facing as they try to cram as many houses as possible into the available space.

With all the reports about how wonderful this American developer company is in winning awards we are constantly told to look at what Liberty has done at Kings Hill. Some Horsham district councillors went over to Kent and came back raving about how wonderful it all is. Perhaps our trust in Liberty’s judgement might be tempered somewhat by the Advertising Standards Agency’s decision to uphold two of the claims made against Liberty for getting things wrong in the glossy leaflet they spread around Horsham.

Perhaps our councillors led by Ray Dawe, Helena Croft, Jim Rae and Roy Cornell didn’t actually speak to any local residents at Kings Hill – but then they don’t here in Horsham either.

Roger Baker

New Moorhead Drive, Horsham