There has been quite a lot written in the past few weeks about things that could have an effect on Horsham’s future.
There’s been the proposed Lifestyle Ford / Bishops Weald redevelopment, the possible construction of up to 4,500 houses north of Horsham and the controversy aroused over a suggested new town near to Sayers Common.
At the same time, two reports have been published, which should make us pause for thought and might give us some ideas as to the way forward for the town.
Firstly we have the English Heritage report, ‘The Changing Face of the High Street: Decline and Revival’. Horsham is quite rightly held up as an example of how an established town can develop a viable and prosperous town centre if all the key players work together.
The second report is the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research document. ‘Mapping the number of extra housing units needed for young people’, looks at the shortage in affordable housing, which is predicted to reach crisis point by 2021.
This is a problem, which will not go away, and we can’t ignore it.
We all realise that we need to attract more businesses into the town if we are to continue our success story.
These new businesses should be a mixture of retail, service and manufacturing.
New businesses create jobs and the vacancies can be filled by people living within the town or by people commuting into the town.
New retail units can add to the “shopping experience” provided they become part of the existing town centre.
We also appreciate that if we want our young people to remain in the town, we need to ensure that a supply of good quality affordable housing is made available for them.
We certainly don’t want to lose them simply because they can’t afford to live in their home town.
We need to give them the choice to decide whether they want to stay or leave.
This is where the second strand of where we are today comes into the picture.
We shall soon see the proposals for the number of houses to be built within Horsham District and their suggested locations.
This is bound to generate considerable debate, especially when the subject of location is under consideration as the first likely response is going to be “not in my backyard”.
We’re going to need some commonsense to prevail and be prepared to look at the proposals as well as the alternatives.
The first obvious question is going to relate to the infrastructure that will be required wherever these new homes are built.
What will it mean with respect to links to roads and public transport?
Where will the jobs be for the occupants of those houses: within Horsham District or outside our area?
Where will the people shop? Where will they get their medical care?
Where will the children go to school?
Will the essential infrastructure be in place before the homes are built or will it be some vague possibility for the future?
Careful thought is going to be required, whether it’s about new businesses or new homes, in what is an uncertain world.
Making the wrong decisions will be disastrous.