A London Borough of Crawsham could be created if 2,500 homes North of Horsham are built according to a former leader of the council.
Horsham District Council approved the publication of a draft housing plan for consultation, which sets out 11,500 new homes for the district over the next 20 years.
Around 2,500 houses including a new business park would be built on land north of the A264 near Horsham under a scheme put forward by Liberty Property Trust, with around 500 homes in both Billingshurst and Southwater, with 500 dispersed around the rest of the district.
Members of the public, parish councillors, developers and campaign groups packed out the council chambers last night (Thursday July 25), while many watched proceedings via video link at the Capitol theatre.
While no councillors voted against the recommendations seven members of the council abstained from the final vote including Liz Kitchen (Con, Rusper and Colgate), leader of HDC until 2009.
Mrs Kitchen said: “I will not be supporting this going out for consultation for the simple reason it’s not a consultation. There are no other options on the table.”
She added: “We’re not just going to have Crawsham, we are going to have a London Borough of Crawsham.”
She thought proposals were premature given Gatwick Airport was ‘openly boasting 40,000 jobs’ if a second runway was built.
Mrs Kitchen explained: “What benefit will the 40,000 jobs have to the Horsham district?”
Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) questioned Liberty’s assumption that a business park would be successful.
He quoted a consultant’s report commissioned by HDC themselves in 2009 on office space demand, which concluded that Horsham was not traditionally considered a prime office location in the Greater South East because of its proximity to Crawley and other centres.
He added: “Horsham is a semi-rural town. It’s our unique selling point.”
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater), cabinet member for living and working communities, said any housing plan would be protecting and enhancing the best of the district’s environment.
“I can say with some certainty in all my experience the preparation has been the most difficult and controversial task I have ever had to do,” she said.
“It’s not my strategy it’s our strategy, all of us who live and visit the district.”
She continued: “It does not contain ideas that we simply plucked out of the air.”
Mrs Vickers admitted that proposals could not please everyone, but she urged people to come forward with their ideas and suggestions during the public consultation, which starts on August 16.
Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry), leader of the council, told members they had to think about what is viable and what is not viable.
He explained: “There is no point in producing a document unless it talks about growth and how we are going to put growth there.”
However Peter Burgess (Con, Holbrook West) told members that a new parkway railway station proposed as part of the North of Horsham plans would cost £35-50m and would not be built.
He said: “I’m awfully sorry I should have brought flowers, I can’t support this, it’s a single option.”
He continued: “We need to go back because this is not workable.”
Gordon Lindsey (Con, Billingshurst) added: “It [Horsham] has not really taken its share compared to other places.”
“If you’re not from Horsham it’s a very very good strategy by the look of it,” Laurence Deakins (Con, Denne) replied.
“Apparently this is being presented as good news.”
He continued: “I like Crawley, but it’s a separate town and the people of Horsham want to keep it that way.”
He added: “I actually like to hear what people have to say.”
Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough and Coldwaltham) said: “What I think is being proposed is economically viable for this council and the people of this district.”
Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar) added: “The rest of the district should not be put on ice. They have their housing requirements.”
Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East) said they needed to nail once and for all the business of a hospital north of Horsham.
He explained: “It’s never going to happen, the country is broke.
“It’s a con. We are never going to get it.”
He added: “We are being asked to put this document out for consultation. We are not giving the green light to developers.”
After the meeting Roger Smith, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England Sussex branch, said the current draft housing plan was ‘threadbare’, and asked why there was no explanation of how the proposed strategic sites had been chosen.
The members who abstained where Mrs Kitchen, Mr Burgess, Mr Mitchell, Mr Deakins, Simon Torn (Con, Roffey South), Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar), and Roger Arthur (UKIP, Chanctonbury).
Ian Howard (Con, Southwater) and Josh Murphy (Con, Horsham Park) left during the meeting.
David Skipp (LDem, Roffey North), David Coldwell (Con, Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote), Stuart Ritchie (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham), Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest), and David Jenkins (Con, Chanctonbury) were not present.
As chairman of the council, while also chairing the meeting, Philip Circus (Con, Chanctonbury) abstained on the grounds of neutrality.
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