Decision on neighbourhood plan for Billingshurst deferred

The High Street, Billingshurst -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140530-162442001
The High Street, Billingshurst -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140530-162442001

The decision on whether or not to produce a Billingshurst neighbourhood plan was deferred by the parish council until a district plan is agreed.

While members of Billingshurst Parish Council broadly expressed support for producing a plan, they felt it would be premature to start work until Horsham District Council’s planning framework is agreed by the planning inspector.

He will test the soundness of the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) in a series of examination hearings due to start on Tuesday November 4.

At a meeting on Wednesday at the Billingshurst Centre Paul Berry, chairman of the parish council, said: “I’m broadly in favour of a neighbourhood plan but only just.

“I think it’s important to make the decision on what’s best for Billingshurst and not just for the parish council.”

He added: “It [a neighbourhood plan] has to follow the planning framework and we do not know what it’s going to look like. Once the inspector gets hold of it, it might be an entirely different document.”

Parish clerk Beverley Bell explained to members that the estimated cost would be £20,000 with around £7,000 of grants available from HDC.

A neighbourhood plan has to be pro-development, but once agreed would inform planning decisions and allow parishes to claim 25 per cent of the new Community Infrastructure Levy, rather than 15 per cent.

Alan Grant said: “It’s important that wherever we can the parish council and the community say what they want in their village.”

But he added: “The district plan needs to be known so we can work from that.”

However David Hart expressed his ‘cynicism about the whole damn business’ after HDC approved 475 homes last year on land east of the village as it faced losing an appeal for 550 homes on the same site.

Vice chairman of the parish council Lesley Wilding pointed out that both Conservative and Labour parties had committed to large-scale house building, most of which ‘would be built down here’, she said.

Mrs Wilding also mentioned that under localism the New Homes Bonus was meant to come to areas that had taken development, but funds received by HDC had been put into its reserves.

However Ken Longhurst added: “We are not planners. None of us are planners. It’s not our job. It’s like having a dog and barking yourself.”