Following the announcement of the timetable for consideration of the modified Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF), it has been reported that council leaders wish to ensure that the full public consultation required by the Planning Inspector – a process which is due to start in March – should be confined to consideration of the new housing allocations to be proposed in order to meet the Inspector’s requirement that the annual provision should be raised from 650 to 750 dwellings.
The rationale for this approach is evidently based on the assumption that the Inspector has declared the rest of the HDPF to be sound.
Any such interpretation would, however, appear to be wholly unjustified for the following reasons:
1. The Inspector’s Initial Findings make quite clear that his conclusions are preliminary (para 27), implying that he has yet to reach more considered conclusions;
2. On a number of crucial aspects the Initial Findings are clearly ambiguous as to the soundness of the Plan. Thus, for example, in the case of the Business Park proposed for North Horsham all that the Inspector can conclude (para 23) is ‘from my visits throughout the Plan area, I consider this to be the employment site with the most realistic chance of combining commercial success with reasonable provision of access by public transport’ - which is obviously a long way from declaring it is potentially viable and therefore sound (something he might well feel inhibited from saying in view of all the evidence from the Gatwick Diamond Initiative and numerous consultants’ reports commissioned by HDC itself casting serious doubt as to its commercial viability).
3. Any expansion of housing allocations is likely to have consequential impact on other aspects of the Plan (e.g. transport infrastructure, environment). Indeed it should be recalled that the Inspector himself stated early in the course of the Examination in November that any Main Modifications could require a revised Sustainability Appraisal to be prepared.
In view of these considerations it would clearly be quite indefensible for the council to try and restrict the scope of consultation on the revised Plan or get the Inspector off the hook of reaching comprehensive final conclusions based on all the evidence.
New Moorhead Drive, Horsham