The South East Plan is to about to be revoked. According to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, this will enable ‘councils to make the development choices that work for them; choices that are right for their communities and respond to the needs of the local area rather than to arbitrary top-down targets. This presents a far better deal for local people’ (Written Ministerial
Statement Regional Planning 14 Feb 13).
This should be welcome news because the huge house-building target of 13,000 new houses set by the South East Plan for Horsham District has proved to be unachievable.
This is hardly surprising given that this excessive number was determined during the boom years before the recession. The
anticipated level of economic growth has not occurred and the build-rates required by the Plan, being considerably in excess of actual demand, have not been met – because of circumstances that are beyond the control of Horsham District Council (HDC).
Notwithstanding this essential truth, communities in Horsham District are in effect being punished by the Planning Inspectorate as it is allowing planning applications on appeal - because the unachievable target has not been met.
One would have expected our district councillors to welcome the opportunity afforded them by the revocation of the South East Plan.
Instead we are told by councillor Circus that ‘the top down approach to housing numbers will remain’ (WSCT 7 Mar 13). Cabinet member councillor Howard expressed a similar view at the Strategic Planning Advisory Group (SPAG) meeting, held on 6 March.
Members of HDC’s Cabinet have previously indicated that a new housing-building target for the
District that was lower than the target imposed by the South East Plan would be unacceptable to the Planning Inspectorate. Mr Howard’s comments at the SPAG meeting seem to indicate that their position is unchanged and will not change even though the Plan is about to be abolished.
Instead of adhering to this Jeremiah-like position of continually prophesying doom HDC should seize the opportunity to break free of the South East Plan and produce a local plan that really meets the needs of the District’s communities, not one that adheres to an unachievable target set by the obsolete regional South East Plan. HDC has the authority, and the right, to determine its own housing numbers for its own community. After all, the abolition of the Plan will enable ‘councils to make the development choices that work for them; choices that are right for their communities and respond to the needs of the local area rather than to arbitrary top-down targets’.
Dr R.F. SMITH
For and on behalf of Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, Sussex – Horsham and Crawley, Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield