Extra time needed to produce a plan

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The accusation that Horsham District Council’s emerging local plan and housing policy is ‘delayed and paralysed’ (WSCT March 28) is misguided and unjustified.

Producing a new local plan is necessarily a very complex process and it is essential that communities be properly consulted and allowed sufficient time to prepare and submit informed responses.

After all, once finalised, the new plan will have far reaching consequences for communities and the natural environment across the district.

In March last year, the Government allowed local authorities only 12 months to produce new plans to conform to the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Twelve months is far too short a time to prepare a complex plan that will determine the future of our district.

Because the woefully inadequate deadline is now expired and Horsham District Council (HDC) is still preparing its local plan, the justifiable fear is that

developers will exploit the lack of a plan to build what they like where they like – riding roughshod over communities with the approval of the Government – the latter’s diktat being ruthlessly enforced by the Planning Inspectorate.

It is the Government, not the council that is responsible for the district’s unprecedented vulnerability to inappropriate and damaging development.

Should developers be permitted to exploit the lack of an up-to-date plan, the Government would be punishing communities - because the deadline that it set for completion was unreasonable and unjust.

HDC, acting in concert with other local authorities, should ask the Government to allow them additional time, ideally 12 to 18 months, to produce a sound and appropriate plan after proper public consultation.

Failure to act now would be an unforgivable betrayal of trust.

Surely Horsham MP, Francis Maude, who is a leading member of the Government, would champion their request, if asked to do so?

Dr R.F. SMITH

For and on behalf of the Council for the Protection of Rural England – Horsham District, Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield