LETTER: ‘Black holes’ in infrastructure

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It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? Horsham District Council seem to stagger from one problem-of-their-own-making to the next.

We now discover there’s a black hole of around £14m for the necessary infrastructure works associated with the mega developments along the A24 at Broadbridge Heath. Apparently West Sussex county and Horsham district councils knew about this back in 2010 when plans for the 2,000 homes were approved.

It’s only just come to the public’s attention – thanks in no small part to the diligent work of the County Times and its investigative journalists.

Is this yet another ‘Doh!’ moment for HDC? I wonder what sort of black hole we might encounter when the essential infrastructure costs for the North Horsham development are finally unveiled (that’s if it ever gets past the Government Planning Inspector, who might have a thing or two to say about how the whole sorry saga has been mishandled by the district council).

Oh, and did you notice, there were even hints that infrastructure funding from other developments (North Horsham?) might be shifted over to try to fill the black hole west of Horsham?

Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul!

At a recent council meeting I raised a question about the Community Infrastructure Levy payable by the American developer Liberty Trust. The levy for residential development over the whole of Horsham District is £125 per square metre, but just for the North Horsham development area it would be reduced to £50.

I wanted to know why. The answer apparently is that this reduction in the levy payable by Liberty is due to the large area of business park (as opposed to residential) and also the expensive infrastructure costs of just over £58m. (There we go again... infrastructure costs).

It turns out that nearly a quarter of these huge infrastructure costs are down to the amount needed for the new railway station. But hold on... Network Rail have virtually ruled out a new station there. What’s going on?

My next question to Cllr Claire Vickers was: if Liberty greatly reduced the square footage of business space and turned it into more profitable (for them) residential space instead (as has happened at their similar development at Kings Hill, Kent) and if the much-vaunted railway station did not materialise, what steps is she taking to ensure that the infrastructure levy would be increased retrospectively to take account of this. Or, indeed, why don’t HDC just charge Liberty the standard CIL rate of £125 and only reduce it in the highly unlikely event of the station becoming a reality?

Cllr Vickers was unable to answer the question there and then, but said I would get a written answer. At the time of writing this I am still waiting for the response.

Just as an afterthought, I noticed HDC have appointed a new Director of Planning, Economic Development and Property.

Not before time. I wish him well in the job. It’s going to be a challenge. I hope he knows what he’s letting himself in for!

SHEILA WHITE

Dorking Road, Warnham