Ray Dawe: let’s hope Francis Maude succeeds over housing plans

As a District we are facing an onslaught of applications for new housing developments and many are in places that we would not have chosen.

Whenever Horsham District Council’s planning committee turns a scheme down, more often than not it goes to an appeal run by a Government inspector and we lose.

Not only do we lose the appeal and get the houses anyway but we often also lose much of the funding for community facilities that the developer is willing to pay for things like infrastructure improvements.

In last week’s County Times, Francis Maude, whose parliamentary constituency encompasses half the Horsham District, strongly backed an idea that would, we believe, stop most of this onslaught happening.

The need for this is also strongly supported by, Nick Herbert, our MP covering the remainder of the District.

As Mr Maude pointed out in his letter, the District has a huge number of planning permissions which have already been granted.

In fact there are existing permissions for almost 7,000 houses and yet inspectors always say that we should allow even more than this, putting us in a totally unrealistic situation.

Based on the old Government directed plan for housing, which has just been abolished, we already have permissions for homes that if built would have been enough for ten years.

The council of course does not build houses. Developers do.

What happens is that inspectors believe that as well as building a planned number of homes per year we should also now make up for a further 2,400 houses not built over the past five years because the housing market was so flat during the economic downturn.

In effect, the inspectors think that developers should be building over 1,200 houses per year in the Horsham District when the most that have ever been built in a year is less than 600.

As Mr Maude acknowledges, all this puts the council is a total illogical position.

He says that he will be shortly talking to the minister with responsibility for planning matters, “with a view to finding solutions”.

Let us hope he has some success when he talks to his cabinet colleagues.

Meanwhile, the council is fast moving ahead on its own strategy for housing over the next 20 years.

This will be considered at a meeting of the full council on July 25.

It then goes out for public consultation and will then be put before a Government inspector for final approval.

I was very pleased to see that at the last count we were on course to have over half the District’s households with gardens signed up to the new paid-for garden waste collection scheme.

We also have the interesting phenomenon of high numbers signing up for a second bin too.

Those readers who watch these things closely will realise that these high sign-up rates mean that the district council is going to receive more income than it original budgeted for the scheme and it means that we shall as a result be able to offset more than planned against the actual cost of delivering the service.

Separate garden waste collection is not one of the services a council has to provide - indeedmany councils do not offer it all.

The success of the paid-for scheme means that despite very big cuts in Government support to the council, the long term continuance of the garden waste collection service is now assured and there will be an improvement in the council’s future financial position which will benefit every council tax payer.