LETTER: Right solution for the district

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Horsham District Council is planning to allow a developer to build a huge residential and commercial development on the far side of the A264 making Horsham expand to the north as well as to the west. This plan is ill-conceived and I would argue that a land-grab on this scale is not needed.

From the 1990s through to the current district strategic plan, the Core Strategy of 2007, Horsham District Council promised that there would be no building beyond the A264.

The reason being that it would result in the towns of Horsham and Crawley becoming one massive urban sprawl rather than two distinct towns each with its own character. The A264 was the strong northern boundary of Horsham town.

That promise will be broken if the council has its way. An American developer, Liberty, wants to build between 2,500 and 4,500 homes north of the A264, in the strategic gap between Horsham and Crawley. They have been working on this scheme for three years.

Liberty had hoped to get approval by including a hospital in their submission. However, that idea was rejected by GPs in April of this year, so instead the new plan sees the hospital being replaced by a vast 500,000 sq ft ‘high quality business park’.

I cannot believe it is needed and neither is Government policy pushing for this kind of huge destruction of green fields.

It is my belief that the business park is a red herring with two probable outcomes; either the business units will not be built but another 2,000 houses will be, or, if they are built they will stand empty becoming a magnet for vandalism and crime.

Since the announcement at a Horsham District Council meeting on 25th July neither the leader, councillor Dawe, nor the cabinet member, Claire Vickers have shared with us which businesses have expressed an interest in moving to this site, despite being asked repeatedly. The economist Harry Shutt wrote in your paper that we will be left with a ‘white elephant’; I agree.

The district’s own analysis shows that Horsham has a surplus of office space already. Employers do not see ‘availability of premises’ as one of their main concerns.

The source documents for this analysis are the Employment Land Review Part II for Horsham Mid-Sussex and Crawley, and the Horsham District Employers’ Survey 2010, both of which are available on the internet.

The Horsham Town Plan also includes employment land within the town boundary, as it should.

Councillor Dawe and councillor Rae have argued that pressure for an industrial park is coming from central Government. Yet the Government published its guidance, contained in the National Planning Policy, in March 2012, not mid-2013. That document does not say building business parks must be at the ‘heart of local authorities’ plans as councillor Dawe argued in his article in last week’s WSCT. It does however say authorities must plan for sustainable economic development, which surely does not require us to sign up for an enormous business park, however high the quality, when we have enough facilities already.

The reality is that there had been no mention of any need for a business park until the plan for a hospital was rejected. Ten weeks later councillors Dawe and Rae told us that what we really needed was a 500,000 sq ft business and industrial park in North Horsham (WSCT 4 July 2013). Three weeks later it was in the draft plan and being put out to consultation.

I suspect the truth of the matter is that a massive development outside North Horsham seems to those councillors to be an easy way to get a big tick in a box to show that they have planned how to build new homes in the district. With a developer wanting to keep going rather than write off the money already invested it must seem an easy answer.

Like the vast majority of your contributors on this topic, I am anxious to see the right solution for the district, not a half-baked plan B cobbled together with indecent haste to provide an easy option for the council.

If you feel the same way you need to register your objection to the Draft Preferred Strategy, specifically this proposal which is Draft Policy 13 and 14.

This issue has generated a great deal of emotion but I believe for the proposal to be defeated it must be attacked on planning grounds not sentiment, rhetoric or nimbyism.

The deadline is 4.00pm 11th October and your objection must be either by letter to the Strategic Planning Team, Horsham District Council, Park North, North Street, Horsham, RH12 1RL or by email to strategic.planning@horsham.gov.uk including your name and address.

GRAHAM BURLING

Bakehouse Barn Close, Horsham