We have recently seen in this paper a report of a document, produced by seven of the eight members of the Horsham Liberal Democrat group, claiming to be an ‘alternative’ to the Strategy for future homes and jobs issued by Horsham District Council.
In essence, this does not conform to the Government’s rules that we must follow and simply moves development from an area north of Horsham and spreads it elsewhere throughout the District to every village - even to the smallest hamlet – without any real logic for doing this other than it moves it!
The simple reality is that, like it or not, we are obliged by the government to have a local plan for future jobs and homes.
That plan has to be based around the set of rules contained within a 47 page document called the National Planning Policy Framework.
Anything that does not follow these rules is not acceptable. The longer we have no plan in place, the more the pressure will grow for our District to take more and more housing and this pressure is not going to magically disappear.
London is short of around 20,000 houses and our District is considered by the government as being the least constrained compared with our neighbours, i.e. it has few natural barriers to development.
It is surely far better then to have councillors who inform residents of the true situation and who clearly state what can realistically be done rather than those who offer something that cannot be delivered nor which would get past a government inspector.
Ultimately does such an ‘alternative’ do a real service to anyone anywhere in the District including those near the north of Horsham site?
It might make those councillors putting it forward appear to be local champions, or as it has been put, ‘to be seen standing up for their voters’.
However, if such a plan ultimately causes us to lose control over the development and get the houses anyway, likely in much greater number and with reduced community benefits, how in the end have these councillors actually helped anyone?
Equally unproductive are people who simply oppose without thinking through these inevitable consequences
So what happens if we delay or reject the current Strategy? It’s quite simple - planning applications will rapidly come in to build on various sites throughout the villages and in particular north of Horsham.
They will be unconstrained and are likely to be for far greater numbers of houses. The council and the community will have very little ability to control such applications.
If they are rejected by the council, they will be inevitably granted on appeal by the government inspector due to us having no acceptable plan in place!
Playing with low future housing numbers or producing alternative plans that do not follow the government rules and include plans for future jobs will simply lead to them being rejected.
Councils up and down the country have tried that approach and failed.
During 2013, 46 out of 52 councils had their plans rejected as they did not follow the rules.
Just recently Brighton suffered this fate. All those councils and their public will go through the pain and debate all over again and meanwhile be exposed to opportunistic developers putting in plans for more housing in places not wanted by the local community.
I wish we were not facing this stark choice.
However, we can either look at the reality and determine to make the very best of it or we will lose out.
If we try to work within a plan we can at least try and maximise the benefits for our residents.