A £14m black hole in funding to deliver infrastructure projects as part of the West of Horsham developments ‘was always known’ according to county council officers.
Countryside Properties and Berkeley Homes are currently building a combined 2,000 homes on either side of the A24. Outline permission for both schemes was approved by Horsham District Council back in 2010.
But at a West Sussex County Council North Horsham County Local Committee meeting last Monday it was revealed that the developments were approved with a £14m gap between the agreed funding and the total cost of the identified infrastructure package.
Darryl Hemmings, planning and transport policy manager at WSCC, said: “It was always known the development would not fund all these projects in their entirety.”
The £41.968m package includes £14.5m for a new grade separated junction on the A24, £1.2m to upgrade the existing Farthings Hill roundabout, £6.1m for the expansion of Tanbridge House School, £9.2m towards relocating and expanding Shelley Primary School, and £3m towards expanding Arunside Primary School.
However the contributions agreed by the developer total just £27.585m, while just £280,000 has been received.
WSCC says this leaves proposals costing £13.963m to be ‘funded from alternative sources’.
Work has already started on the new A24 ‘High Wood’ junction, linking the Berkeley development with the new Broadbridge Heath bypass.
These are expected to last 18 months with the dual carriageway down to a single lane and speed restrictions currently in place. This is being delivered by the developers while the rest of the package of work is being undertaken by the county council.
At Monday’s meeting Warnham Parish Council’s Roger Purcell told councillors that traffic counters on Strood Lane had already seen traffic increase dramatically since roadworks started on the A24 last month.
At peak times it has increased by 25 percent, and 18 per cent over the whole day.
He said: “What we are asking is whether the long term measures could be introduced more quickly to counter the 18-month rat-run increase.”
Geoff Clark, on behalf of Broadbridge Heath Parish Council, added: “I think the challenge for us, having on our side accepted 1,000 houses that was on the basis of money towards infrastructure works to mitigate that work.
“To find out actually there is no guarantee at this stage that can be delivered, there should be questions asked.”
David Sheldon (Ind, Horsham Tanbridge and Broadbridge Heath) said: “I want us to be holding to the commitments we have made.”
But Mr Hemmings replied: “It will take us longer to deliver on these projects than we would have liked rather than not delivering nothing at all.”
He added: “We are not in a position to deliver everything now.
“The key thing now is for us to be clear about is what needs to be delivered on the ground.”
DEVELOPERS ‘CAN AFFORD IT’
Brad Watson (Con, Nuthurst and Southwater) said: “The problem we all face is there is a fine balance between what we can achieve by contributions from the developer relating to the market value to increasing costs.”
Amanda Jupp (Con, Billingshurst) added: “I find it extraordinary that developers, let’s face it they are doing very nicely out of it. They can afford to shave their profits.”
Mr Watson called for a thorough debate on the future of education and schools in the Horsham area and said they needed to have a ‘long term plan for 20 years’ not just ‘short-termism’.
Mr Hemmings said that funding ‘was expected to become available in the future’.
But members countered the suggestion that funding from future developments could plug the gap.
Nigel Dennis (LDem, Horsham Hurst) said: “I was a little bit concerned about ‘additional developer contributions’.
“It seems to be likely they would have issues in their own localities. I was not quite clear how we could shift money across the Horsham area.”
But Mr Hemmings pointed towards planned improvements to the Great Daux and Robin Hood roundabouts, work which may wait until the fate of the proposed 2,500-home North Horsham development is known.
He said: “There would be little value in work which just targets the improvements west of Horsham.”
NORTH HORSHAM PLANS
This was followed by discussion about infrastructure contributions as part of the proposed North Horsham development at Horsham District Council’s Full Council meeting last Wednesday.
Firstly member of the public Sheila White asked Claire Vickers, HDC’s cabinet member for living and working communities, why it was only proposing to charge £50 per square metre of residential development in North Horsham through the new Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), compared to £125 per square metre in the rest of the Horsham district.
Mrs Vickers replied that CIL was only one way the council could extract community and infrastructure funds from the developer and HDC would secure a new school and major transport improvements through a section 106 agreement.
Then Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park), leader of the Lib Dem Group at HDC, brought up Local Enterprise Partnership Coast to Capital’s Strategic Economic Plan, which bid for £559m of funding from central Government to back a six-year investment programme across the region.
She pointed out that the North Horsham development, which includes a new business park, was mentioned in the SEP, with a new parkway railway station listed as one of the LEPs projects.
It reads: “A contribution from Coast to Capital funds towards the cost of the station would enable the affordable homes element to be increased thereby helping to meet a specific housing need and making delivery of entire project more certain.
“The Indicative cost of new station is £12.52m.
“The private sector will contribute £8.35m so funding of £3.17m is sought from Coast 2 Capital.
“The entire investment in the strategic development is circa £1bn most of which will be provided by the private sector.”