LETTER: Time to challenge the inspectorate

The Planning Inspectorate has over-ruled Horsham District Council’s refusal of an application to build 46 houses on countryside east of Daux Avenue at Billingshurst.

A decisive factor in this contentious decision was the district’s lack of a five-year housing land supply measured against the excessive target imposed by the recently revoked South East Plan. – on the questionable grounds that its ‘housing requirement figures are the most recent figures that have been tested through an examination process’.

In reality, the huge house-building target imposed on the district by the South East Plan was determined and tested through an examination process during a period of exceptional economic growth before the recession in the mistaken expectation that strong economic growth would continue and generate new jobs and a need for thousands of new houses to accommodate an expanding workforce.

Instead we have a prolonged recession, which the architects of the South East Plan did not foresee, and which the Planning Inspectorate will neither allow for nor acknowledge when deciding appeals.

Developers will not build more houses than can be sold and that is why the excessive target imposed on the district by the South East Plan has not been met; that is why there is a shortfall in houses built against the unachievable target set by the South East Plan, and that is why all communities in Horsham District will be vulnerable to inappropriate development until the Council has in place an up-to-date local plan.

Until then developers will seek to exploit the lack of a local plan to build what they like where they like in expectation that the Planning Inspectorate will enable them to do so.

By any equitable and sensible standard, this is unreasonable and unjust. Doubtless there will be much wringing of hands and expressions of regret by HDC’s officers and councillors – but that will not do.

Now is the time for our council acting in concert with other equally vulnerable councils, to challenge the Planning Inspectorate and to press for additional time to complete the new local plan.

Now is the time for Horsham MP Francis Maude who is a leading member of the Government to intervene on behalf of his constituents.

Dr R.F. SMITH

For and on behalf of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Sussex – Horsham District, Bashurst Copse, Itchingfield