The council has been told to up its housing targets by at least 2,000 homes by the planning inspector.
Planning inspector Geoff Salter scrutinised Horsham District Council’s local plan in November and has suggested in his initial report at least 15,000 not 13,000 homes should be planned for up to 2031.
He found a new market town near Henfield ‘is not required in current circumstances’, but said that ‘nothing has convinced me that the proposed allocation for North Horsham is not sound’.
The initial findings report released today (Friday December 19) reads: “In essence, I consider that the council has not properly identified the correct level of housing need over the plan period and consequently needs to modify the HDPF to show how the additional requirements for housing can be met.
“I suggest a way forward through the suspension of the examination for six months to enable the council to address this issue by undertaking further work.”
He said it would be for HDC ‘to decide how best to revise its housing strategy’.
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater) HDC’s cabinet member for living and working communities, said: “I am very pleased that after months of uncertainty we now have a very clear indication from the inspector that he feels he is close to a point where he can approve our plan and that he has strongly supported the strategy that we have prepared.
“While he dismisses some of the very high numbers for future house building that were being suggested, it is greatly disappointing that he is requiring us to revise this number.
“I have asked our strategic planning team to start work immediately on how we can accommodate these additional homes with the minimum impact.
“In addition, I am delighted that he has acknowledged that with current rates of housing delivery we should be able to demonstrate a five year supply of land. This will put us in a much stronger position when developers lodge appeals.”
Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West), one of the leading opponents of the North Horsham scheme, said: “I wrote in April of this year in this newspaper and spoke out in the council chamber, as did a number of colleagues and many residents, stating that the plan was not ‘sound’ and would not be passed.
“And sure enough the Inspector has suspended the current plan, making the express finding it is ‘un-sound’ and invited the council to make main modifications to its site allocations, followed by further consultation and then re-submission to him.
“The Inspector has disagreed with the council’s Sustainability Assessment on landscape impact. That means that the inspector is saying that the council’s evidence base is wrong in that regard.
“Residents are now in left in limbo and find themselves now worrying over the next six months to one year as to were another 2,000 houses are to go.
“Are another 2,000 homes to be dumped in North Horsham? Liberty has made no secret of wanting 4,500 houses on the North Horsham site in the Strategic Gap.
“Residents will be heartened to know that the battle is not over and that this will be looked at next summer by the Inspector. This cannot be resolved before then due to the amount of work that the council needs to undertake.”
For a full report and reaction see next week’s County Times.
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