LETTER: Where did things go wrong?

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The ‘least bad’ decision by HDC to grant planning permission for 475 houses East of Billinghsurst will be a big disappointment for the numerous residents who consistently place ‘keep our green spaces’ and ‘no more houses’ at the top of the public consultation wish list.

Significantly none of those who argued for the development have convincingly explained how Billingshurst can benefit from such a development.

The developers assure us that, ‘Green Spaces’ will be provided within the development – hardly compensation for the green fields sacrificed. There will be land for a primary school – now there’s a déjà vu!

We in Forge Way know what happened to the last such designated site! There will be £1.72 million extra in lieu of affordable housing – note the wording: community funding. A previous such development agreement resulted in £1 million being commuted to Horsham, allegedly justified as it is ‘only 8 miles from Billingshurst’!

There is another ‘plus’ for HDC : the New Houses Bonus (NHB) windfall! The chairman of the Horsham District Council, during a Billingshurst Parish Council meeting a few months ago, explained that the NHBs received in Horsham district would go into reserves with no plans for future use . I understand that the NHB government ‘localism’ initiative suggested this financial development incentive could be shared locally, with particular benefit to those communities taking extra housing. It seems that HDC is not prepared to commit to applying the funding in the way suggested. Moreover, it seems Billingshurst has received no such financial benefit from the numerous houses at present being built in the village. Where do our own district councillors stand on this?

Our three district councillors, while allegedly not supporting the development, abstained, one being quoted as stating that allowing the development was the ‘least bad decision.’ This hardly inspires Billingshurst residents with confidence that they are acting in the best interests of the village they represent.

The Billingshurst Community Partnership (BCP) is working with the Billingshurst Parish Council (BPC) on the Community Plan but here’s an anomaly : The BCP , arguing FOR the development, suggested that it would use funds on projects emanating from this jointly produced plan. BPC, responding to public feeling, and arguing AGAINST development , would not therefore envisage using unanticipated development funding for parish projects. One can only conclude that the BCP projects referred to have not been jointly agreed with the BPC.

Lastly I refer to the arguments put forward by Mr Spurrier on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce. Referring to empty shops in the village and a worsening situation in Jengers Mead, he proclaims the vision of a ‘prosperous Billingshurst,’ Perhaps Mr Spurrier is unaware that Billingshurst High Street was once ‘prosperous’ so a suggested starting point might be ‘Where did things go wrong??’.

Ms Kingston (letter, WSCT 22/8/13) is correct when she states that the bypass has contributed to the demise of the village centre. While that is not the only reason, the decline certainly started after the large scale development took place approximately 12 years ago . Exactly how does the Chamber of Commerce intend to ‘save the village’, ‘rejuvenate’ it and make it ‘prosperous’ (once more)? Conversely I suggest that developments such as this will precipitate our village into the status of a dormitory town with the majority of residents going elsewhere to work and shop. Even if it did have a magic formula for regeneration how is the Chamber of Commerce going to convince Billingshurst residents that it is capable of achieving this objective, bearing in mind the village will, seemingly, have yet another large population increase long before any (if any) development money is made available for infrastructure or improvement?

It would be comforting to think that those who spoke for the development had specifically pointed out some advantages for Billingshurst. Unfortunately I see no evidence of this. The District Council is not only compensating for its own lack of planning strategy, but is also with this development replenishing its reserves with some NHBs which, ethically, I suggest, should be at the disposal of Billingshurst.

Our own district councillors seem so browbeaten by the system – or by their own party – that they tacitly support what they describe as a bad decision. The Billingshurst Chamber of Commerce, ineffective for many years, speaks in encouraging but somewhat meaningless hyperboles. The Billingshurst Community Partnership seems to be working, as ever, to its own agenda.

Our Parish Council, following the wishes as expressed by Billingshurst residents has spoken against the development... and has been ignored.

A ‘least bad decision’?? Perhaps that’s the least one can say !

Ann Rodwell.

Forge Way, Billingshurst