LETTER: Communities will suffer

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After many months of deliberation, the Planning Inspector now requires the 20year housing target for Horsham District to be raised further to an unrealistic 800 pa (16,000).

This outcome was not surprising to the many who attended his Examination in Public on 3rd July, when he failed to respond to key questions from members of the public and representatives from parish councils, including those below.

1. He did not address the need for updated traffic surveys, or insist that HDC offers a strategy for closing the infrastructure funding gap, despite being specifically asked to do that.

2. I reminded him again that i) the projected Headship Rate (persons per household) has increased and ii) that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) graph shows annualised UK percentage population growth falling to 0.6 per cent pa in 2013. Those factors do not support an increase in the theoretical 20 year housing target. The Inspector did not contest that, but neither did he offer his calculations, as requested.

3. Having asked HDC to review the link between housing need and employment growth, he seemed strangely disinterested in the affordability link between a) local salary levels and b) the cost of houses, which was inexplicable.

4. I referred him again to the Gatwick Diamond Initiative’s Local Strategic Statement (GDI LSS), which indicated little need for more business space in the area, other than for warehousing and distribution. This is a point that Harry Shutt has made several times and one that Mr Salter doesn’t contest.

5. He was also advised that since House Price/Salary ratios are lower in Crawley (<9 compared with HD >13) it was more likely that workers would commute from Crawley to Horsham - rather than the other way around, but did not address that.

6. He failed to seek market adjustment to HDC’s housing trajectory, showing an average of 1,087 new dwellings pa over the next eight years, ie almost 2.5 times the 453 pa average in eight years prior to recession, which is beyond reasonable expectation.

That is despite the Minister’s advice that a market adjustment should be made, ‘taking account of building delivery rates before and after a downturn’ and an observation from HDC that there are currently 7,000 houses with planning approval - which are not being built.

7. Whilst the Inspector has asked HDC for observations on his target change, he will not provide the rationale behind them – until he issues his report in a few months time. Also from last week’s CT, it seems that HDC does not intend to question his findings, which is again inexplicable.

Sadly developers will carry no penalty, when the 800pa target is not met and HDC cannot force them to build. So it is communities that will suffer from more indiscriminate development and infrastructure overloading, because the target is unattainable.

This is not good enough from an unelected Planning Inspectorate, which consumes over £40 million pa of taxpayers’ money, while over-riding the judgement of local authorities and the aspirations of communities.

One local MP did suggest (before the election) that the Planning Inspectorate should be made redundant. We can only hope that he will now seek to deal with this most unsatisfactory outcome, on behalf of HDC’s residents, because it is clear that no one else is going to fight for them.

ROGER ARTHUR

Melrose Place, Storrington

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