LETTER: Mismatch of skills and opportunities

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The title to Cllr Vickers’ and Paterson’s piece in the WSCT Feb 13 exposes a mindset which, if pursued to its logical conclusion, will lead to the complete urbanisation of Horsham District and the South East of England.

The latest figures available (December 2012) show an unemployment rate in Horsham of 1.5 per cent. Even with the impending departure of Novartis, there is no significant unemployment in Horsham.

There is a significant mismatch of skills versus opportunities, especially amongst people under 25 years of age. That is the issue which HDC needs to address.

It is an issue which will be addressed by attracting SMEs to occupy the thousands of empty square feet of business premises in Horsham and not large, footloose, multinationals which, because they have no real ties to the community, are here today and gone tomorrow and leaving a gaping hole.

Similarly, there aren’t homeless people ‘living’ in Horsham but there are over 1,000 households in need of housing. Their needs are for one, two, and three bedroom properties that are affordable. Not the vast estates of three, four and five bedroom houses currently being built and costing in excess of £125,000 per bedroom.

By carrying on as we are our hamlets are becoming the size of villages, villages are becoming the size of towns and towns are becoming the size of cities. They are all losing their character in the pursuit of money.

Cllrs Vickers and Paterson say ‘further planned population growth will be just as beneficial [as it was in the past] keeping Horsham one of the South East’s most attractive and sought-after market towns’.

Can we still say Horsham really is a market town? That distinction has long since been eroded and will continue to do so if it continues to expand and expand. The irony is that Horsham continues to be attractive and sought-after because it remains recognisable as a market town. It compares favourably with the urbanisation of London and the surrounding subsumed settlements which have consequently become relatively unattractive and increasingly unaffordable (unless you are a rich non-taxpayer). Is that what we want for Horsham?

The average birth rate in the UK has been falling for decades and is now less than two per couple. The UK population is growing primarily because we are all living longer and because of migration and immigration.

We have to accommodate that increase somewhere but it makes much better economic and social sense to encourage businesses, and to build more houses, in the more deprived areas of the country.

Unbridled expansion in the South East is simply adding heat to an already overheated part of the country and increasing the divide between the rich and poor, the haves and have nots.

Cllrs Vickers and Paterson maintain we need more high paid jobs but that will lead to higher costs of living and ever more costly housing. It is part of the vicious cycle of ever more people requiring ever more jobs requiring ever more houses.

It’s time our leaders stood resolutely for the interests of the people of our communities.

CHRIS LEPPARD

Highdown way, Horsham