LETTER: Objection to business park

Your letters
Your letters

My name is Tony Hogben, I am a Director of two Horsham based companies, one of which being a Commercial property company, and am therefore a valid contributor to the economic growth of Horsham town.

I would like to raise a strong objection to the proposed North Horsham development of 2500 houses and a Business Park. My foremost reason for this objection is a lack of need for a Business Park/Industrial Estate and a lack of requirement for the proposed housing development suggested by HDC.

As far as I am aware, no evidence is offered by HDC to substantiate its explicit and questionable presumption that building a given number of houses will create a specific number of jobs. The notion that building factories and offices will attract companies and employment to the area is an antiquated principle, and with so many empty offices already in Horsham I feel, from a commercial perspective, that it would be imprudent to build more.

Horsham already has several under occupied Business Parks and Industrial Estates. The Graylands Business Park site at Langhurst Wood Road Brickworks currently has numerous vacant units and planning permission was granted to expand this site some time ago but due to a lack of interest this site has not been expanded. In the past seven years since I have been in Horsham I have never seen this Business Park fully occupied.

The under occupied and under developed existing Business Park at Broadlands Campus on Langhurst Wood Road already offers 3000 square foot to 30,780 square foot units of outstanding HQ style offices. Holmwood and Ashurst units (standing at 19,338 and 10,442 square feet respectively) are empty. These units are suited to larger Head Office type arrangements.

To the South of Horsham in Star Road industrial Estate there are lots of empty units for sale, these units have been on the market for a considerable length of time.

I have conducted some research to substantiate my claims, and as at 10 following Chartered Surveyors had Commercial property available to rent or buy:

*Local Horsham based Surveyors Colyers Commercial are currently listing 20 offices and 10 Industrial buildings to let in the Horsham District.

*Stiles Harold Williams is currently offering 7 offices in Horsham and seven Industrial units for rental or purchase in the Horsham District.

*Crickmay Chartered Surveyors has 52 offices to let and 31 other mixed use business units to let in the Horsham area.

*Val Williams property agent has four mix usage commercial properties available.

Horsham District Council has three Industrial units for rental on its own website.

The Horsham.gov.uk web site lists sixteen Commercial Property Agents that cover the Horsham District. I have not studied all of their websites, however after investigating a handful it appears that there is an abundance of Commercial Property already available in Horsham with at least eighty office buildings to let and at least forty mix usage industrial buildings. This research alone surely suggests that there is not an evident need for a further Business Park in the Horsham District.

Our neighbouring district, Crawley, currently has a significant number of empty office and Industrial space available. Manor Royal Business District is the largest single mixed use commercial area of West Sussex. The famous Manor Royal Estate in Crawley currently has 185 acres of development land available. The Manor Royal Estate in Crawley has fantastic road links with the M23, thus arguably making it a more viable site for commercial development.

The reason that Manor Royal Estate has so much available development space is because Principal Landlords and Business Owners have chosen to demolish their factories and office buildings. The former massive sites used by GlaxoSmithKline, BOC Gas and Edwards High Vacuum have, for example, all been levelled to avoid standing empty for a number of years.

I believe that under current tax legislation, Landlords would have to pay around 50% business rates on empty units and the tax bills for these massive sites are so vast that the only practical commercial decision that they can make is to demolish current buildings. Arguably this makes Horsham District Council’s decision to build more questionable. Surely these Landlords would not be pulling industrial buildings down at such a rate if they were able to rent them?

In addition to this there are 170 acres of space available on the Crawley Manor Royal Estate, and there is also a massive 700 - 751,000 square footage of vacant office and mix usage Industrial space available. In terms of unoccupied space 20% (36,210 square metres) of office floor space is vacant*.

I have not mentioned the numerous other industrial Estates in Crawley or in the rest of the Horsham District that are available for use, and based on this evidence, I would attest to the fact that with such a large amount of available commercial space it would be absurd to build more.

Economist Harry Shutt recently made reference to the fact that “The income from business rates does not go directly to the local authority (unlike Council Tax); rather, it is pooled centrally and redistributed**” which ratifies the concern that there is no benefit to local residents from the proposed Business Park.

Looking at this proposition from an environmental perspective, the site is intended to be built on ‘Green Belt Land,’ at a cost of destroying some of the of the most picturesque countryside around Horsham. It is my belief that the area is also at risk of flooding which also raises extreme concerns as to the site’s suitability.

As well as Horsham and its surrounding area not requiring a Business Park, consideration for increased levels of pollution and noise and additional traffic that a Business Park would cause need to be considered. It is my belief that an HDC traffic survey has not yet been completed, and I am aware that a Local Parish Council traffic survey has already indicated that the A264 is at capacity at peak times of the day. I don’t think we yet know what volume of traffic the Kilmwood Vale development will bring to the A264, however without plans for a direct link to the M23 or to widen the A264, any development is just going to bring additional traffic congestion to the A264. My personal and professional opinion is that the Business Park would be a huge ‘white elephant’ and if copious amounts of units of it remained empty, as I suspect would be the case, it would inevitably become a crime hotspot and therefore a drain on local resources.

I have read the HDC preferred strategy framework document, and many of the ideas for growth of the local economy are sound, however they make no reference to work completed by previous HDC planners. HDC already owns two Industrial Estates in Blatchford Close Horsham and Oakhurst Business Park in Southwater. These estates already have numerous small starter units to encourage new business in the Horsham area. HDC already, as previously mentioned, has a great website with links to 16 agents that can help provide accommodation for business in the Horsham area.

Horsham has current low unemployment and, therefore, less of a need for a Business Park than other areas of West Sussex. Horsham has an ageing population which would imply that there is a greater necessity for residential care for the elderly. The strategy document focuses on Horsham’s strengths as an area such as its low unemployment and abundance of existing business units, and doesn’t seem to focus on Horsham’s increasing need to facilitate a growing elderly population.

The document appears to discount the successful Business Park infrastructures that are already in place. It would also appear that current HDC planners have not read the previous 2007, 2009 and 2010 reasons for rejection of a North Horsham site and that they do not respect the reviews of the residents of Horsham or previous Councillors.

To summarise my professional view on this matter, Horsham has no need for another Business Park.

There is no evidence to support that building more industrial buildings will bring jobs to the area, and views of local Professionals and Economists attest to the fact that such a Business Park will be a drain on local resources rather than an asset.

What is even more shocking is that it would appear that the Business Park concept was added or amended after a plan for a new hospital was removed.

Such a resource would surely be far more useful, if not essential to residents than a redundant Business Park? Such a decision could arguably indicate that the Business Park was an afterthought and that the developer just needed to occupy the land. I am shocked and dismayed that HDC would consider destroying what were previously protected, unspoilt areas of rural land to build unsightly, unwarranted business premises when surely there is a more pressing need for healthcare facilities within the local community.

My other major concern is whether or not there is a definite requirement to build new houses on this ‘greenbelt land.’

I have conducted some research into this need and have found out that the total population for the UK is set to grow at a rate of between 0.35% to 0.55% until 2050. This would lead to the population of the Horsham District growing by 6.3% in the next 18 years (up until 2031) to 10.62% maximum.

This means that there will be an increase of between 8253 to 13912.2 additional residents in the Horsham area. If this figure is divided by 2.34 people living in each household, this generates a result of a need for between 3526 and 5945 homes for residents in the area within the next 18 years. At this growth rate, there would be a requirement for between 195 and 330 additional houses per year. Plans are already in place for approved schemes to build 6000 to 9000 houses in the area which arguable puts into question why there is a need to build anymore?

Wikipedia states that Horsham town has a population at 55 657 people at the current time, which equates to 1498 to 2592 houses needed to accommodate these residents. I believe that Horsham already has plans in place for 9000 new homes! Why are we building more when statistics prove that we already have more than enough new homes being built in the Horsham District to allow for birth/death rate increases?

Why should Horsham town be forced to accept a higher number or new homes that other towns and districts in West Sussex? A download from the West Sussex Council website shows planned forecasts for housing for other districts in West Sussex and Horsham already has the highest planned housing growth between 2013 to 2028 at a growth rate of 4.79%***. Indicated below, this fully supports my own personal calculations that Horsham already has sufficient housing planned to support forecasted birth and death rates.

Forecast house building 2013 to 2028 Population of district Percentage of new houses planned

Horsham 6269 131000 4.79%

Mid Sussex 3719 127381 2.92%

Crawley 2982 106597 2.80%

Arun 3895 150000 2.60%

Chichester 2369 113794 2.08%

Worthing 1737 104600 1.66%

Adur 308 59327 0.52%

I do recognise that South East growth rates could be as high at 9.3%, (based on calculations on the Government National Statistics website****) however, only 4.3% of this figure takes into account difference births to death so growth rate.

The population of London is forecast to see a 9.3% decrease due to migration and this could consequentially lead to an increased need for housing in the South East of England, however this surely doesn’t have to be in Horsham and doesn’t have to be built on green belt land!!

The reason that the population and housing need in the South East of England is set to grow at a rate of 9% over the next ?? years is down to migration and immigration.

I personally support the growth of housing communities to deal with population increase, however I am not personally in favour of attracting additional migration to Horsham. I love the community feel of our market town of Horsham and I do not wish to expand Horsham outside of the A264 boundary.

I fully understand the need to build some additional houses in Horsham to cope with raising population, however data from HDC that has already been published supports my own calculations as HDC has indicated that they only need another 1000 houses to cope with demand! If this is the case then why do proposals outline the building of 2500 units?

From information I have read this is led by Property Developer’s wishing to build large estates. Why should local residents be forced to endure spoilt landscapes and inevitable disruption to build 150% more houses than are statistically needed purely to appease Property Developers? HDC have not been clear in their replies on this matter. HDC have stated that they support larger developments and that this is their ‘strategy’? I do not feel that HDC has the backing of the local community and I am not convinced that the vast majority of residents living within the Horsham District would support this strategy? I wonder if we should, as local residents, request an IPSOS MORI Poll to really find out the views of locals.

The West Sussex planning website states that there is a need to focus ‘additional housing on existing towns and cities in order to promote more sustainable patterns of development and make better use of previously-developed land.’

I am shocked, therefore, that HDC is not trying to make better use of its brownfield sites to accommodate the new housing development.

Such sites available for use include:

Rookwood Golf course

Searle’s Yard

Waste land near Horsham train station

Post Office Depot

A24 Industrial Park

Southwater

Billingshurst

Ifield Golf Course

Another option that HDC/West Sussex County Council should consider is that of a “New market town”. Building on green-belt land should arguably be the last solution to the problem not the first quick fix!

Whilst I strongly object to HDC planning to build 2500 houses when it only needs 1000 maximum, I also object to the site that has been selected as its preferred site. This site North of Horsham has been considered before, however it has been rejected in the past due to many reasons stated in Previous HDC documents. In 2009, for example, in the core strategy review document, North Horsham was unambiguously and definitively ruled out as an option for development. The 2009 strategy review stated that: ‘The A264 physically separates the site from Horsham marking integration difficult; the District Council agreed in 2009 that there would be significant detriment to the environment in that the views from the A264 and from parts of North Horsham would be significantly altered. In addition, the views from the High Weald of outstanding Natural Beauty. Further potential harm to Graylands Copse and possible odour issues from Brookhurst Wood land fill site. Development in the North Horsham area would be within an area with significant environmental and flood plain constraints with the west of the site constrained by a schedule site of archaeological interest (Moated Farm.)

With regards to protecting our green belt, the site is within the Horsham/Crawley strategic gap and development is likely to increase settlement coalescence. The 2009 strategy review stated that the North Horsham area is not well contained by natural boundaries which could lead to further pressure to develop north along Rusper Road.

The Council accepted the review strategy in 2009 and again in 2010 and as early as 2007. All previous HDC councils have rejected and stood firm, which questions why the current HDC Planning Officer/Department are not respecting the wishes and views of all previous Planning Officers? Why is it that the review documents have not been considered?

This proposed development of North Horsham will be the biggest decision made by HDC in the past 20 years, many Horsham residents are not aware of the huge impact that this could have on our roads and infrastructure. Building excessive housing greater than Horsham needs will lead to the devaluing of all property in the Horsham area.

HDC has also indicated that the building of a new Secondary School may lead to changes in school catchment areas. I am not convinced that most North Horsham residents would not want their children crossing the busy A264 to get to School! Unless there are significant objections to this scheme it is likely that HDC will be successful in implementation of this strategy and the landscape of Horsham will be changed forever. I would urge all residents to put pen to paper and write with your views to:

Strategic Planning

Horsham District Council

Park North, North Street

Horsham

West Sussex, RH12 1RL

Email: strategic.planning@horsham.gov.uk if you email you must include your name and address for your views to be recorded as an official objection, I believe that strategic planning have had hundreds of emails already that have not been recorded as official objections as residents have not included their names and addresses on email.

To date only 200 people have put pen to paper on this matter, we need thousands of residents to write in to object if we are going to force a change in direction for HDC planning. Please don’t think that you can’t make a difference as you can, please put pen to paper.

*http://www.manorroyal.org/assets/Prop__analysis.pdf (August 2012,) (Accessed: 12 September 2013.)

**Harry Shutt (2013) West Sussex County Times, 12 September 2013.

***http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/living/environment_and_planning (September 2013,) (Accessed: 12 September 2013.)

****http://www.statistics.gov.uk/hub/index.html (September 2013,) (Accessed 12th September 2013.)

By Antony Hogben

Morriswood

Oldholbrook

Horsham

RH12 4TW