Infrastructure of Southwater ‘failing’ say campaigners

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A heated debate broke out last week when the examination of the Horsham District Council housing blueprint looked into proposals for an extension to Southwater.

The council’s Planning Framework document, which has been publicly scrutinised by Government planning inspector Geoff Salter, outlines 500 homes to the west of Southwater.

LastWednesday, developer Berkeley Homes argued a further 2,250 homes were also needed on top of 2,500 proposed for north of Horsham.

Talking about the 500 homes alone, Ian Thwaites from Keep Southwater Green, said: “Our infrastructure is failing. It’s difficult to get away in the rush hour.

“There are no easily accessible railway stations. Christ’s Hospital is very difficult with parking and it’s going to be even more so.

“Emergency provision: if you are going to get to hospital in the golden hour of your heart attack, it’s very different to being slightly north of Horsham because the ambulances come from the north.”

Bob Selwood, who was speaking on behalf of Berkeley Homes, argued the additional homes would enable them to offer those desired improvements as well as a primary school, business park, an upgrade to the Hop Oast roundabout and cycle and pedestrian links across the A24.

A secondary school would also be possible - as well as one in North Horsham.

Mr Selwood said: “By crossing that threshold it allows the opportunity for the new secondary school to be delivered for the whole of Southwater. The land allocation allows for that.

“We would agree with the parish council that Southwater would benefit from additional employment and it would not with 500 homes.”

Catherine Howe, senior environmental officer at HDC, defended the council’s position. She said: “This goes back to the settlement hierarchy. The assessment we did was taken in light of Horsham being the key settlement in the district. Other settlements are behind that.”

education

The secondary school proposal proved a controversial topic.

Deputy clerk of Southwater Parish Council Jennifer Nagy said: “We are aware county council figures show 650 children are currently bussed out of Southwater daily and obviously any new housing would generate more children of secondary school age, which may be sufficient to justify a secondary school.

“However, if there were insufficient numbers for a secondary school then children would be bussed in to the village from other areas, which would be self defeating.

“The county council does have a statutory duty to educate children up to the age of 16. If the county council believes there are enough children in Southwater to populate a secondary school, then a secondary school should be provided.”

She added residents had indicated they were in favour of a new secondary school, but not with further housing.

The county council, however, was non-committal saying it had only considered provision with 2,500 homes at North Horsham and a smaller development at Southwater; not a large development on both sites.

Catherine West from WSCC said: “If this was a position of North Horsham and West of Southwater, we would need to re-look and we would want to re-comment as a county council on education looking at secondary, primary, early years, and youth provision.

“I would not be able to give a response this minute what would be required if it was ‘in addition to’.

“Where we have strategic development - 2,500 homes at North Horsham or Southwater - that is where a secondary school should be. If that was ‘as well as’ - that would be different and we would want to reconsider that.” Mr Salter said both councils should have considered this option.

Former chief executive of HDC Martin Pearson, who last week caused controversy speaking against the council’s preferred strategy, reminded the inquiry of an earlier debate about the secondary school for North Horsham.

Speaking for North Horsham Parish Council he said that the proposal was not viable on its own and would include bussing in from Crawley.

“The scenario we are looking at, at the moment, is bussing in from Crawley in terms of making the viable number in North Horsham, and increasing the bussing in from Southwater as well.

“We know the present cost of bussing from Southwater costs £234,000 a year. We are talking about enormous monies which are going against the education of our children.”

Other issues that proved controversial with the extended development were that it would split the village in two across the Worthing Road.