LETTER: Curb excesses of Inspectorate

Horsham MP Francis Maude, in his letter (WSCT May 23), rightly identifies the interpretation by the Planning Inspectorate of the requirement for councils to have a five-year housing land supply as a “serious concern”.

Unfortunately, he explains the resultant issues and consequences for communities as if they may arise in the future – potential rather than actual.

In reality and contrary to Mr Maude’s understanding, Planning Inspectors are already over-riding Horsham District Council’s decisions on the contentious grounds that the District lacks a five-year housing land supply as measured against the excessive and supposedly abolished target imposed by the revoked South East Plan.

Consequently, applications to build that are contrary to the wishes of local communities have and are being permitted on appeal by Inspectors - most recently Daux Avenue, Billingshurst. By any equitable and sensible standard, this is unreasonable and unjust.

Developers are now seeking to exploit the District’s unprecedented vulnerability by submitting planning applications that are contrary to the wishes of communities in full expectation that they will be passed on appeal by Planning Inspectors should they be refused by the council.

Moreover, despite Mr Maude’s assertion that “recent changes to the planning system have been designed to give greater independence to local councils to make decisions based on their

assessment of local needs and interest”, the leadership of Horsham District Council seems to

believe that they must set a house-building target in the emerging local plan that is in conformity with that imposed by the revoked South East Plan even though the latter’s target has proved to be excessive and unachievable.

Fear of rejection by the Planning Inspector rather than meeting a realistically assessed local need will therefore be a decisive factor in deciding the District’s housing target – hardly a sound basis for determining the District’s future.

Whilst Mr Maude’s intervention with the Ministers responsible is most welcome, he seems to

believe that the ‘transitional issues with planning’ have yet to happen when they have already

rendered the District vulnerable to inappropriate and damaging development.

Ministers need to be informed accordingly and the excesses of the Planning Inspectorate curbed.

Dr R. F. SMITH

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