IN 2009 Horsham District Council (HDC) listed nine options in its Core Strategy Review, all potential development sites to cater for the district’s housing needs up to 2026.
Options 3 and 4 proposed more than three thousand houses at Holbrook and Chennells Brook, to the north of the A264, with a green field break sandwiched between the two sites.
Whilst similar proposals for Southwater and Billinghurst received up to 3000 objections each, Adam Walker of Horsham-based Crickmay Chartered Surveyors said the north Horsham proposals received just half a dozen comments – some even favourable.
With this in mind, and representing major landowners in the area, Crickmay set to work on a development proposal that it believed would meet the demands made by HDC for the district’s future development.
One year into the project, a major partner was brought on board – Liberty Property Trust – who’s experience and track record was to have a dramatic impact on the proposed development.
“Liberty are not housebuilders,” said Mr Walker, speaking exclusively to the County Times. “The way they operate is that they masterplan the whole project, with an emphasis on creating a lot of employment space.
“What makes this different from traditional builders, is that this is a true mixed use community, which Liberty has done already at Kings Hill in Kent, in partnership with Kent County Council.”
Having championed the scheme in private for two years, Mr Walker spoke passionately about the plans for low and medium density housing, a new railway station, supermarket, a possible secondary school, two maybe three primary schools, a leisure complex, neighbourhood surgeries, and a top quality business park and office campus.
He vigorously defended the development, citing its green credentials, and its many differences from more conventional housing schemes, as a result of Liberty’s influence.
“Only half of the land is for housing,” he said. “The rest is open land and reserved for other uses.”
The plans set out provisional separate hamlet and village identities across the 800 acre site stretching from Langhurstwood Road in the west to Wimland Road in the east.
The homes would be constructed by various house builders, and whilst the development would embrace the concept of social housing, it would be ‘pepper potted’ around so as to make indiscernible from other properties.
Declaring the agricultural land in the area ‘not particularly high grade’, Mr Walker stated they are ‘embracing bio-diversity’.
He said: “Development has to go somewhere, but I think with the water meadow, a country park, increased planting and low density development, these plans have much less impact than a housing estate stuck on the side of the town that does not benefit the town.
“There is never going to be an ideal place to put a major development, but at least this is tightly constrained with ancient woodland to the north – it isn’t going to creep.”
Mr Walker said fears the north Horsham development would ‘swallow up Warnham’ were unfounded, as it stopped short of the Warnham railway line, leaving open country before the village is reached travelling west.
“We’re promoting a sustainable mixed usage development,” he concluded, “that will have its own identity, yet bring significant benefits to Horsham and the district.”
At the top of this benefits list for Mr Walker is the ‘high profile’ business park, to be situated on the corner of the A264 and Wimland Road in the east, next to a new Parkway railway station for the area.
The planning department of HDC has now received the developers’ evidence based proposals - a comprehensive package of documents, including reports on ecology, infrastructure and traffic – demonstrating that the scheme ‘is deliverable’.
By Summer 2012 it is expected HDC will determine its preferred strategy of the Core Strategy Review, with an expectation this will then be subject to a public consultation.
It is expected an adopted strategy will be determined by Spring Summer 2013, after which a planning application for the north Horsham development would be submitted.
Mr Walker declared ‘there is every chance we could have a spade in the ground by Spring Summer 2014’.
He said: “We believe we have something now which is very credible.”
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For further comment and analysis see this week’s West Sussex County Times (05/01/12)