LETTER: Residents let down as Localism fails

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Referring to articles in last week’s County Times, regarding Horsham District’s Planning Framework, had the Plan protected against more green field development, then we might all have breathed a sigh of relief, but it will not do that.

That is because the 20year target of 750 new dwellings pa is unattainable, as was the 650pa (population growth) target proposed in the Plan - because developers will only build when they can make a profit.

When that target is not met, then an Inspector will once again over-ride decisions by councils to permit indiscriminate building on green field land.

So, the target should have been adjusted according to housing market signals, ‘taking account of building delivery rates before and after a downturn’ as proposed by the Planning Minister.

But sadly HDC failed to propose such an adjustment. Instead they left the door open for an even higher target to be imposed. The Inspector happily walked through that door requiring 750 new dwellings pa, almost 70 per cent more than the 450 dpa average built during eight years prior to the recession.

Since average house prices in Horsham District are over ten times average salary (more than twice the long term national average ratio of four times) and the housing market has topped out, the 20year target is totally unrealistic.

Because there is no penalty on developers if the target is not met, they can continue to pump up their asset values (pending a market improvement) with even more planning approvals for green field development and HDC can’t force them to build. The developers and their shareholders will be celebrating.

So who will lose out, because HDC failed to make a market adjustment to the Inspector? You guessed it, it will be residents, who have been let down by the complete failure of Localism. In due course, they will see even more pressure on their local infrastructure and more loss of green field land.

The Coalition promised (under Localism) to ‘abolish Regional Strategies, putting elected local councillors back in charge, accountable via the ballot box’.

Instead they put developers in charge, aided by the Planning Inspectorate, which costs the taxpayer over £40million pa. Ministers continue to imply that the people are in control, through their local councils, when patently they are not.

ROGER ARTHUR

Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury ward and UKIP parliamentary candidate for Horsham