Many concerned residents of Horsham (probably the vast majority) will have been utterly dismayed at the central conclusion of the Planning Inspector’s Initial Findings (published just before Christmas) that the only thing wrong with the disastrous Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) is that it does not provide for even more new housing of the wrong type in the wrong places than the excessive levels already envisaged (http://www.horsham.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/15383/ID24-Inspectors-Initial-Findings.pdf).
Anyone who attended the Inspector’s public examination of the HDPF in November and who has now read his findings is entitled to feel disturbed.
Many of those who, like myself, presented evidence to the Inspector in good faith are bound to feel they have been comprehensively betrayed.
The report is replete with examples of misleading and illogical statements and conclusions reached without reference to any evidence. This is all the more surprising given that constant stress was laid during the Examination on the importance of basing the Plan on ‘objectively assessed needs’ - in line with the principle laid down in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
While the specific lapses are too numerous to detail in one letter, one example stands out: the statement in para 12 of the document that housing affordability issues in the area ‘do not appear to be worsening’, even though the latest (very recent) official report on this (Northern West Sussex HMA – Affordable Housing Needs Update, October 2014 – Figure 8) shows that the position in Horsham has not only deteriorated markedly since 2009 in absolute terms, but has done so much faster than in other districts of the county and England as a whole.
It may be a symptom of unwillingness to confront the developers, who he knows will resist any attempt to make them build more than minimal numbers of affordable housing (which is far less profitable to them), confident in the belief that they will be able to avoid any obligation to do more – under the terms of the NPPF (aka the ‘developers’ charter’) – on the grounds that it will undermine the ‘viability’ of their investment.
This and other flaws in the Inspector’s findings justify the conclusion that they are wholly unacceptable from the perspective of the Horsham public’s interest.
Given that there appears to be no mechanism whereby the Inspector’s finding that the HDPF is basically sound can be overturned, the only hope of averting the permanent damage to the community that would result from the implementation of this Plan is through the ballot box.
This means that voters at the elections in May need to be motivated to throw out those existing councillors who have been too eager to sell out the local community to alien commercial interests in favour of ones more in tune with its own real needs and aspirations.
Allingham Gardens, Horsham