Adopted plan gives Horsham district ‘control of its own destiny’

Claire Vickers, pictured last year, said that an adopted plan would give the council 'certainty'
Claire Vickers, pictured last year, said that an adopted plan would give the council 'certainty'

Horsham’s local plan has been adopted giving the district ‘control of its own destiny’, according to the council’s leadership.

The final vote on the planning framework was passed by 24 votes to 16 with two abstentions at a Horsham District Council meeting last night (Thursday November 19), with the majority of councillors arguing that it would allow them to fight off speculative development.

It follows two sets of examination hearings and in October the planning inspector rubber stamped the Horsham District Planning Framework, which sets a target of 800 homes a year up to 2031.

However some councillors and residents continued to voice opposition to plans for up to 2,750 homes and a business park north of the A264.

Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), HDC’s cabinet member for planning and development, said: “The benefits of having an adopted plan is it gives us certainty in shaping the future of the district in terms of the number of homes, jobs and infrastructure.”

She added: “This plan is in the best interest of the district as a whole and it gives us back control of our own destiny.”

Adrian Lee (Con, Denne) added: “With great respect to other members it’s time to stop fighting the battles of the past.”

He repeated planning advice given to the council that they would have to ‘have taken leave of its senses not to adopt this plan today’.

His first point was echoed by Toni Bradnum (Con, Nuthurst), and although she abstained due to her support for the recently made Nuthurst neighbourhood plan, she voiced reservations about the North Horsham scheme.

She explained that adoption would allow them ‘to put the whole sorry saga of North Horsham behind us’, but described the developer’s presentation on the scheme as a ‘bit lacklustre and rather airy fairy’.

Some councillors were more damning of the North Horsham scheme.

Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) said: “There is something seriously wrong here and I’m starting to suspect in this matter that this council is not fit for purpose.”

David Skipp (LDem, Horsham Park), leader of the Lib Dem group, said they would not ‘experience utopia in North Horsham’, and described the process of putting together a plan as ‘tortuous’ and ‘at times unpleasant’.

He called for ‘strong leadership’ to negotiate the best deal from developers, and added: “We will expect the very best from the Horsham District Planning Framework.”

Meanwhile Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East) raised questions over a new proposed secondary school, which HDC officers had suggested could be open by 2020, but said that after meeting with Jeremy Hunt, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, their officers were now looking at the Southwater option ‘with some urgency’.

On the proposed 500,000 square foot business park Tony Hogben (Con, Denne) thought it would end up being a ‘white elephant’, but Gordon Lindsay (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley), cabinet member for the local economy, explained that the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework dictated that councils should plan for economic growth, and part of their future income would be based on their ability to generate business rates.

He added: “We must approve this plan. Otherwise we doom this district to failure in the future.”

The scheme has proved highly divisive within the ranks of the Conservative group at HDC.

Horsham resident Geoff Richardson called the process an ‘abject failure by leaders to try and create a plan we could all support’ raising alleged ‘whipping and bullying’ of Tory councillors.

Jonathan Dancer (Con, Roffey North) said he had been told that since the plan had to be approved, and given his objection to it, the ‘smart thing to do would be to stay away this evening’.

He described the HDPF as a ‘beautiful plan’ in many ways, but described the North Horsham development as ‘squatting like a vile parasite at the heart of our lovely district plan - its host’.

Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West), vice-chairman of the council, argued the scheme would ‘scar’ the north of the town, expressed the worry that the council was operating ‘hand and glove’ with the North Horsham developer Liberty, and said HDC would ‘live to regret’ not choosing Southwater as a larger strategic site than currently proposed as in the long-term they would get both North Horsham and Southwater.

He added: “The door is well and truly open.”

Resident Chris Morris said that by adopting the HDPF councillors were accepting planning inspector Geoff Salter’s conditions for an early review, and this would be an ‘open invitation’ for developers to press for a further increase in the housing target after three years on top of the interim target.

The main argument against a delay was that it would not only leave the council open to development anywhere in the district, it would probably mean that housing numbers would be even further increased when they do finally adopt a plan.

Brian O’Connell (Con, Henfield) said: “Without a plan were are muppets at the behest of the planning inspector.”

Meanwhile Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury), cabinet member for housing and public protection, said they had ‘discussed plans for years’, and a delay ‘was simply going to make the situation worse for our residents’.

He added: “I have heard today things that are nonsense, the suggestion we dumped this on North Horsham because we in the south have a conspiracy against North Horsham and Horsham town.”

A number of parish councils spoke in favour of the framework as a way of stopping speculative development across the district, and allowing communities to develop neighbourhood plans.

Ray Osgood, of Henfield Parish Council, warned that any delay could see a repeat of what has happened over in Mid Sussex with a massive increase in housing numbers, David Green of West Grinstead Parish Council, argued that it could see the whole district subjected to major unwarranted planning applications, while Val Court, of Nuthurst Parish Council, explained that through localism many parishes had worked hard on their neighbourhood plans and accepted some development that had made a difference to some of the housing numbers.

But Warnham Parish Council’s Roger Purcell called for full consideration of the A24 and safety issues before the planning framework was adopted, while George Sallows, of Rusper Parish Council, asked for an undertaking that the full 35 per cent affordable housing would be secured at the North Horsham site.

Lastly North Horsham Parish Council’s Frances Haigh described the framework as a ‘bad plan put together for political motives’ and said it would be ‘scrap paper’ by the time expansion at either Heathrow or Gatwick was announced.

She felt the flooding assessment was ‘poor’, and since part of the town already flood, the development could turn it into ‘Horsham on the Water’.

Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), leader of the council, warned that a ‘tsunami’ of housing was going to spread from London in all directions and it would be put in the areas of least resistance by Government inspectors.

He added: “We have a number [of houses]. We have a plan. We should stick to it.”

VOTES FOR (24): John Blackall (Con, Chanctonbury), John Chidlow (Con, Southwater), Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury), Paul Clarke (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), Roger Clarke (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), Roy Cornell (Con, Roffey South), David Coldwell (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote), Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham), Matthew French (Con, Broadbridge Heath), Nigel Jupp (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley), Adrian Lee (Con, Denne), Gordon Lindsay (Con, Billinghurst and Shipley), Tim Lloyd (Con, Steyning), Paul Marshall (Con, Chantry), Mike Morgan (Ind, Henfield), Brian O’Connell (Con, Henfield), Stuart Ritchie (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham), Kate Rowbottom (Con, Billingshurst and Shipley), Jim Sanson (Con, Chantry), Ben Staines (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding & Woodmancote), Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), and Michael Willett (Con, Steyning).

VOTES AGAINST (16): John Bailey (Con, Rudgwick), Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East), Alan Britten (Con, Roffey North), Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East), Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West), Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar), Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar), Jonathan Dancer (Con, Roffey North), Tony Hogben (Con, Denne), Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and COlgate), Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West), Josh Murphy (Con, Horsham Park), Godfrey Newman (Ldem, Forest), Connor Relleen (Con, Horsham Park), David Skipp (LDem, Horsham Park), Simon Torn (Con, Roffey South).

ABSTENTIONS (2): Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham), Toni Bradnum (Con, Nuthurst).

ABSENT (2): Ian Howard (Con, Southwater), David Jenkins (Con, Chanctonbury).

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