LETTER: Failure to manage planning process

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Elizabeth Bartnovskaya in her letter in the County Times (23 January 2013) highlighted a major concern for many people living in Horsham, that is the failure of the council to address or even recognise the problem created by spiralling house prices in our district.

As she said in her letter, the housing schemes proposed by the developers and approved without modification by our councillors will do nothing to provide the affordable homes required by local people .

If the Tories had any inclination to act in the interests of local people rather than in the interests of big business, they would do something about the failure of developers to deliver the homes we desperately need. They certainly have it within their power to ensure delivery in line with that identified need but they simply choose not to do so.

Not only could the council use the planning system to deliver more affordable homes, it could make sure that the funds that the council receives from developers in lieu of supplying affordable housing on their sites is used promptly and efficiently.

Last year we made an enquiry to the council and identified that the council had raised approximately £4m over two years from this source.

This would deliver at least 120 units of desperately needed affordable homes for rent. Why have we heard nothing about the council’s plans for delivery of these homes?

The council is also due to receive additional funds from the developers of the site west of Horsham. As a result of Horsham Labour Party’s campaign for appropriate numbers of affordable homes to be delivered from that development, the council changed the original decision which was to grant approval to the developers who originally offered a proportion of affordable homes well below the 40 per cent needed on the site.

In response to our campaign they provided planning permission with a requirement that the sum provided by the developer in lieu of affordable housing be increased if house prices increased in the district.

It was clear to anyone at that time that the house price trajectory was upward and therefore over the period of the development the inevitable price rises would, of course, provide greater profits.

The planning gain for Horsham should, therefore, be greater too. It is disappointing therefore to learn from a Freedom of Information enquiry that the council has yet to claim the increased sum from the developers.

Apparently they are waiting to learn from the developers whether a payment has been triggered under the terms of the Section 106 agreement. It is obvious that prices have risen and the council should ensure that the community benefits as a result.

Instead they are waiting for the opinion of the developers. Should the developers, by some amazing manipulation of figures, manage to demonstrate there has not been an increase in house prices , Horsham District Council will not collect the money that is clearly due. Once again the council’s policies are being implemented in favour of business.

How is it that the developers are able to dictate the outcome of the planning process when their intentions are so contrary to the needs and wishes of our communities?

This is entirely down to the failure of the Tory-led council to manage the planning process effectively in the interests of local residents. It is a failure driven by an ideology that puts the interests of business before all else.

There are simple steps that the Tories could take to evidence that they are accountable to the electorate, these include ensuring that the development within our district responds to local needs.

If they fail to do that then the challenge for the electorate is to recognise the relationship between their vote and the outcomes that arise from the councillors that their vote puts in place.

If they are unhappy with those outcomes they should consider a change of behaviour when the next elections take place.

DAVID HIDE

Chair, Horsham Labour Party, Clarence Road, Horsham