LETTER: Housing figures are much too high

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We write in support of your Save Our Countryside campaign ‘It’s just plan crazy’.

We have made detailed written representations to Horsham District Council at every consultation stage of the local development framework review (including the GL Hearn reports) making reasoned objections to the excessive housing numbers put forward.

It is obvious that the GL Hearn studies are based on much too high projections of economic growth/job creation (most recently evidenced by the Budget Statement) and the only possible justification now is household/population growth due largely to social changes and very high levels of net inward migration to Horsham district.

At the end of the day it cannot be right to encourage the continuation of high net in-migration by allowing further extensive greenfield development which would change forever the rural character of Horsham district.

Nor should we accept the certain reduction in our quality of life and that of future generations which would inevitably follow such excessive development and for what?

The possibility that building all these houses might help towards a fix to the economic downturn or, on the other hand, maybe contribute towards another house price bubble making it even more difficult for future buyers.

The coalition Government, in an effort to achieve economic growth, is about to promote a house building boom partly by means of the taxpayer underwriting cheap mortgages for people who cannot, or do not choose to, buy on normal commercial criteria. Our politicians appear not to have learnt from the recent past.

As far as localism is concerned there is no doubt the Government is being disingenuous. Local planning authorities cannot effectively decide appropriate numbers and locations for housing in their districts if planning appeal decisions are used to negate localism by central government.

Likewise, to talk about a shortage of low cost housing for local people has nothing to do with a policy that encourages continuing high levels of net in-migration (which will exacerbate already very high out-commuting) and puts forward housing targets between 590-730 per annum, ie 11,800-14,600 in total over the next 20 years.

These numbers are excessive and unrealistic given that house building numbers actually achieved between 2001-2011 averaged 398 per annum and most of that period was in prosperous years before the economic downturn.

Nor are we told if the housebuilding splurge in Horsham district will ever end. In this respect it is worthy of note that the April 2010 GL Hearn study key findings at para 9.16 concludes that high housing supply is self-reinforcing whereby past rates of housing development support higher levels of in-migration, which when projected forward, continues to support high levels of housing development.

It is a fact that in the last 20 years or so Horsham district has taken very high levels of in-migration which has resulted in a population growth of 22 per cent equating to an average of 1.1 per cent per annum compared with a West Sussex and regional average of 0.6 per cent per annum and national average of 0.4 per cent per annum (see GL Hearn April 2010 study para 3.8 and figs. 3.4 and 3.5).

In view of the new duty to co-operate other districts should, in fairness, now share more of the burden.

Yet now we read in your newspaper HDC leader Ray Dawe says a new market town is unlikely because Mid Sussex district has settled its plan. What happened to the duty to co-operate and how many houses has Mid Sussex provided in the last 20 years and how many is it going to provide in the next 20 years so that the figures can be compared with Horsham district?

In our view there is no doubt that the housing numbers being put forward for Horsham district are much, much too high and something must be done to prevent this being forced upon us. They would result in a further 21 to 26 per cent increase in housing in 20 years with the consequent devastating effect on our environment and infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the local elections on May 2 apply more to the county council than HDC but a vote away from Conservative, Liberal and Labour (Labour Party housing targets in their now defunct SE Plan were also much too high) might make central and local politicians see sense.

It would be helpful to know which candidates/councillors/MPs would pledge to support housing targets in Horsham district at a more reasonable and sustainable level, so 400 per annum (ie, 8,000 total over the 20 year plan period).

Hopefully, this letter may bring forward some responses via your newspaper.

As you say in your campaign, ‘our rural heritage is too valuable to squander in this way’.

S J PULLING and Mrs R PULLING

Kithurst Lane, Storrington