LETTER: Developers now decide targets

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The rejection of Mid Sussex District Council’s local plan by the Planning Inspectorate on a technicality has huge ramifications, not only for Mid Sussex District but also for communities across England, including Horsham District (WSCT Dec 5, 2013: ‘New 10,000 home town debate’).

At the Inquiry, which resulted in the Inspectorate’s contentious decision - and which I attended - the representatives of developers who are determined to secure a huge increase in the house-building target for Mid Sussex District appeared to act not only as witnesses for the prosecution but also as prosecutors and jurors.

At one point the Inspector reminded participants that the inquiry was about ‘duty to co-operate’, not housing targets, and then allowed the developers’ representatives to continue to interrogate the council’s officer on the housing target set by the council for its local plan.

This seemed to be more of a one-sided ‘kangaroo court’ than an objective and diligent inquiry.

The Inspector’s decision and the manner in which it was determined reinforce the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recently expressed concern that the planning system is ‘heavily skewed towards the interests of developers over those of the public’.

And it makes nonsense of the Department for Communities and Local Government’s cynical statement in response to the RICS: that ‘This Government has abolished the last Administration’s top down regional strategies and given local people more say on planning’.

In reality, developers are now deciding housing targets whilst the views and concerns of local people are either ignored or summarily dismissed by Planning Inspectors.

Dr R.F. SMITH

Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield