LETTER: Entire strategy is ridiculous

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As a member of Save Billinghurst (though I write on my own behalf), I have closely watched planning matters for a number of years and attended the recent Horsham District Council (HDC) meeting where policy was voted upon. I am ‘confused of Billingshurst’.

I hope, through your pages, I might pose questions to HDC, some of which I have written to them about prior, but received no response to.

Some years ago, HDC held a Public Consultation on Strategic Planning Sites. Given the overwhelming opposition, at that time, to yet more development in Billingshurst from both the parish council and residents, I enquired (three times if I correctly recall) to HDC their reasons for keeping Billingshurst on the list/their rejection of other sites. I received no acknowledgement, let alone reply.

Now we are to have another Public Consultation which raises two questions: 1. what are we being consulted about if this is ‘the only option’ and 2. given the opposition I have spoken of, what is the point of voicing this yet again, given 1. and that it was totally ignored prior?

Billingshurst has grown hugely in the recent past and ‘the first phase’ brought (in my opinion) minimal benefits. The half-a-bypass I believe has contributed to the demise of Billingshurst village centre.

Since the last Public Consultation, hundreds more houses have been built in Billingshurst; 150 here, 50 or so there... and there... and there. Some have been on brownfield sites - good. Though it would have been nice to see some infrastructure come with them. Add them all up, and it is hundreds of houses with no infrastructure improvements at all as far as I can see.

Could it possibly be (as one councillor said) that Billingshurst remains a Strategic Site due to the application to build 550 houses; changed to 510 and now changed again to 475; ie, just below the 500 that HDC believe we should accept?

Even if HDC reject the latest plan, it seems HMG’s Inspectorate dismissing the (almost inevitable) appeal is as likely as pigs flying. Let’s dream for a minute and assume this is dismissed by all, there are other sites in Billingshurst that will then leap onto the 500 bandwagon.

That is entirely irrelevant. Neither the parish council nor the residents of Billingshurst are NIMBYs. We have seen huge growth. Since the last Public Consultation we have seen, and suffered the inconvenience and noise, of many, many more houses being built.

We cannot, as a community and quite simply, cope with any more development. No matter where located, we CANNOT accept 500 more houses.

There are those who blame this current planning madness on HDC’s shambolic planning policy. There are those who blame central government’s ‘presumption in favour of planning’. The former is, largely, a Conservative council and the latter is largely a Conservative government. Has HDC, perhaps with other councils, petitioned HMG to point out the stupidity of this policy? (I asked HDC that as well recently; didn’t get a reply to that either!)

Billingshurst has many houses for sale and rent. It has empty commercial premises. Several large employers have left the area, NOT because of lack of a workforce.

I believe there are over 7,000 houses in the HDC area given planning permission but not being built. If the developers thought they could turn their usual large profit by buildings and selling these houses, rather assume they would do. Do HDC not wonder WHY these houses are not being built?

Wake up HDC. This entire planning strategy is ridiculous, whether your fault or HMG’s. In the meantime, you expect some areas, such as Billingshurst, to just cope with this. Presumably on the basis that they’ve had so many before what does it matter, let’s just concrete over more of their green fields.

As I understand it, all infrastructure in Billingshurst is beyond tipping points NOW. There are more planning applications and appeals due. The various sites, I would suggest, are NOT sustainable if they are supposed to be within a mile walk of all important facilities.

So please, HDC, tell us why you think Billingshurst should accept another 500 houses and where and why the other sites you considered are and were not suitable. What exactly is the point of us answering your consultation yet again?

Finally, as a matter of public interest, how much land has HDC sold to developers in, say, the last three years and how much for and exactly where is the land they own now which, I rather assume, could be developed for the local area only with low-cost, affordable and social housing without the need for the huge houses (which the area does NOT need) in order to ‘pay’ for the housing at the other end?

Many people in Billingshurst want answers to these questions. Many people, some years ago, said this ‘was a done deal’. Given history and present circumstances it is increasingly difficult to argue against such statements as the only people who think this is a good idea are HDC and the developers; ie, the only two bodies to benefit to the enormous detriment of the residents of Billingshurst.

SUE KINGSTON

Daux Avenue, Billingshurst