LETTER: Inspector must tackle key issues

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When the Planning Inspector last reviewed the Horsham District Planning framework, he raised the District housing target to 800 per annum, ie twice the average built in the previous 14 years - but he failed to justify that increase.

So I have pressed him again for answers to the outstanding questions below, in a letter dated 5th August.

1. Updated traffic surveys and a strategy for closing the infrastructure funding gap, have still not been produced, despite various requests.

2. The projected Headship Rate (persons per household) has increased while the Office of National Statistics (ONS) graph showed UK population growth falling to 0.6 per cent per annum in 2013 – implying a target reduction.

3. The 20 year housing target of 800 dwellings pa has not been adjusted for market signals and affordability - or against the 453dpa average in eight years prior to recession.

4. Calculations behind the new target have still not been provided and the link between local salary levels and house prices has not been factored in to it.

5. Also, since House Price/Salary ratios are lower in Crawley (<9 compared with HD >13) workers are more likely to commute from Crawley to Horsham - than the other way around, thereby affecting cross boundary provision.

6. The HDC forecast of employment growth had been reduced from 445 to 275 jobs pa, implying a reduction in the housing need.

7. The Gatwick Diamond Initiative’s Local Strategic Statement (GDI LSS), indicated little need for more business space in the area, other than for warehousing and distribution, suggesting a reduction in the employment projection.

8. Since developers carry no penalty, when the 800pa target is not met, HDC cannot force them to build - as evidenced by the fact that 7,000 houses have planning approval, but are not being built.

9. So when that unattainable target is not met, HDC’s planning decisions will again be overruled, leaving communities to suffer from more distorted development and infrastructure overloading.

That is clearly not consistent with the NPPF requirement that the aspirations of local communities should be met.

Since the Inspector’s decision will have a substantial impact on the lives of around 140,000 people in Horsham District, it is only right that he should show why he has raised the 20 years target - in the face of all the evidence.

If the Inspector fails to deal with these questions in his final report, then the issue may have to be escalated to the Chief Inspector and to the Planning Minister.

In the meantime, perhaps local MPs will let us have their views on the process, in the columns of the WSCT.

Otherwise we shall be left to assume that they are happy with a Planning Inspectorate that costs the taxpayer over £40 million pa and whose performance seems to be less than adequate.

ROGER ARTHUR

Melrose Place, Storrington

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