IF OUR Tory councillors are as keen as councillors Andrew Baldwin and Robert Nye claimed in your pages last week, to see more affordable housing in the district, why didn’t they take a more robust position over the strategic development West of Horsham?
Only a few months ago Horsham Labour Party, with the strong backing of many Horsham residents, urged the council to enforce its own strategy and insist on the provision of a 40 per cent allocation of affordable housing on that site.
At that time Mr Nye showed a cavalier disregard for the needs of those on the housing waiting list, claiming that there would be plenty of opportunities for them to rent on this site once the buy-to-let landlords had swarmed in to take advantage of this gold-plated investment opportunity.
His colleagues in the Tory group, showing more concern for the profits of the developers than for the community, approved the planning application with a significantly reduced level of affordable homes.
In so doing they abandoned an opportunity to address the affordable housing crisis in our district - a crisis that saw Horsham highlighted in an article in the West Sussex Gazette on July 27, as an area in desperate need of decent affordable homes.
This article stated that Horsham has 1,154 applicants on its housing waiting list, of which 125 are in priority need; more than a quarter of the total in priority need in West Sussex. And yet our council leaders show more concern for the needs of big business and small investors.
The Tories’ ‘road to Damascus’ conversion to the cause of the homeless is, in our view, little more than an attempt to discredit, with their charges of nimbyism, those who campaign against the council’s unpopular planning proposals.
On the basis of recent experience, we believe that the major development that they are trying to push through in Southwater will deliver very little of the affordable housing they mention, and which, incidentally, Dr Ian Thwaites makes clear his campaign group would welcome.
It will simply put more money in the pockets of the big businesses of which Mr Nye seems such an admirer.
If, however, the Tories are genuine in their concern to address housing need, we challenge them to follow the advice of the National Housing Federation and the example of nearby Arun council and identify surplus land and free it up for affordable homes.
A prime example of such a site would be the Professional Centre in Brighton Road, Horsham. This was subject to a planning proposal that included a significant element of affordable housing but with the arrival of the Tory Government this proposal has been ditched in favour of another for luxury retirement flats.
Come on, Mr Nye, you say you are listening to local people, let your actions speak louder than words.
Campaign co-ordinator, Horsham Labour Party
Clarence Road, Horsham