LETTER: Utter folly of parish plans

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I have been following the debate in the County Times regarding new housing developments in the county. I, like many it would seem, have just woken up to the enormity of the problem.

I live in the Slaugham Parish, which includes the villages of Handcross, Warninglid, Pease Pottage and Slaugham. Until recently these villages have enjoyed peaceful tranquility with everyone living in peace with the neighbouring villages.

This has now changed with the introduction of the of the 2011 Localism Act and the requirement for parish councils to prepare a neighbourhood plan.

In our case, until now, the parish council has done an excellent job of doing all the things that parish councils do, ie, mowing the verges, reporting faulty street lights, etc. It’s very good that there are such public spirited people who volunteer to do this work.

Where it all went wrong was when parish councils were asked to prepare the Neighbourhood Plan. Initially it seems quite logical as the councillors are the ‘people on the ground’ but in reality, very naive, as few local councillors have the knowledge or expertise to undertake such a huge task, but instead of saying ‘no’ at the outset, our parish council, and it seems most others across the country, gallantly took on the task.

I know that our PC has spent a huge amount of time and money preparing its plan.

It is only now that as the plans start to be published across the country that the enormity of the naivety becomes apparent. Our PC steamed ahead with its plans and for unknown reasons,but maybe due to the lack of communication skills, failed to explain its plan to the community.

It was only after the plan was published that most of the community suddenly realised that there was a plan to build a huge number of houses almost in their gardens, in a totally unacceptable location in Handcross.

This has caused a conflict within the villages as there have been no proposals for any houses to be built in Slaugham and Warninglid. There is now considerable animosity between the once peaceful villages and I predict it will intensify as the parish council refuses to retract its plan.

This is another example of Government passing legislation without thinking it through. It is utter folly to expect keen amateur volunteers to undertake such an onerous task.

It is even more folly for PCs to take it on and as we see these plans being unveiled across the country, the fiasco we are experiencing in Slaugham Parish is going to happen across the country.

It’s going to be an interesting 2014.

COLIN SMITH

Coos Lane, Slaugham