Those that truly know me will already be aware I have no faith whatsoever in ‘Localism’, especially the ‘brand’ being ‘sold to us’ or rather forced upon us by this government.
It is all window dressing, the government still holds the whip hand as to planning and targets being handed down to local authorities by central government have not gone away, nor will they, the government’s target is economic growth and they are going to let nothing stand in their way in order to achieve it!
As to the North Horsham segment of the Draft Preferred Strategy I am on record as saying ‘I don’t like it, but I will back it’, since I made that statement I have not had a single resident come back and tell me I am wrong in my financial/economic reasoning.
True democracy is not about one or even 44 elected members spending a number of years very carefully preparing, scrutinising and debating a raft of site options, then issuing a document telling you the residents of our district exactly what is going to happen.
True democracy is issuing that same document, then opening it up to consultation by the residents that elected those 44 members, in full anticipation and expectation that a significant number of residents will respond along the lines of ‘I don’t like it, we need it; but it should happen in someone else’s backyard’ (heaven help ‘someone else’).
To me the vote the other night was a victory for democracy, how could your elected members not send out such a controversial set of documents for comment by the residents that elected them and that the draft strategy could well affect?
Some of the points made on Thursday were highly constructive, when these documents go out for consultation they should as a number of members suggested include an analysis of all sites considered to date, the criteria used to judge those sites and HDC should publish why each of those sites was considered to be unsuitable.
Simply saying no this cannot happen here, or ‘stick it someone else’s backyard’ to me are not valid responses to any consultation. If we are to find an alternative site to North Horsham then suggestions coming forward must be economically viable and deliverable say within five years.
What makes North Horsham economically viable is that it is a single site. With this economic viability also comes the ability for a community to demand from the developer maximum local benefits, because we know in the base-case he starts with a significant profit.
Breaking anything like this down into small parcels will deliver the housing, but it will not deliver the economic development segment nor anything like the profit (it will be frittered away financing multiple sets of infrastructure) available for community benefits.
I really hope that as and when these documents are issued for consultation that our residents in very significant numbers respond, that to me is true democracy.
Now let the residents have their say!
(Con) Horsham district councillor for Holbrook East and West Sussex county councillor for Roffey, North Street, Horsham