David Moore: Subsidy for greenfield destruction is beyond belief

Horsham Society
Horsham Society

The strength of feeling about the Horsham District Framework Proposed Submission continues unabated as was evidenced by the large demonstration against the proposed north of Horsham development on the 7th June.

It didn’t help on the following day to see a report concerning the demonstration on Breakfast TV, which contained clips of interviews with some of the demonstrators and also a clip of an interview with Cllr Vickers at the HDC exhibition concerning the Proposed Submission in Swan Walk.

What she appeared to say took me by surprise. It seems that the proposed development north of Horsham is primarily aimed at providing affordable homes and jobs for our young people, who would otherwise leave the district.

This was akin to lobbing a grenade into the consultation process since, if this approach is followed through logically, the last thing that anyone would want to do is to build a large housing and employment site north of Horsham.

Commonsense would tell you that you’d need to spread the homes and the job opportunities throughout the district to benefit all the young people, who live in the area.

Then there was the second piece of news, which was rather like the effect of a tsunami following an earthquake. As always, it seems that we can’t just have one consultation at a time and we have to have multiple consultations going on at the same time for whatever reason. This time it was the consultation on the Preliminary Draft Charging Schedule.

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) allows local authorities to raise money from developers to fund any necessary infrastructure in order to support growth from a Local Plan, when it’s approved. It comes into force from April 2015. The conclusions reached in Horsham District Council’s document turn out to be totally unbelievable.

The proposed CIL charge for residential development is £125 / m2 for the whole of Horsham District, save for one very small area. Can you guess where that area is? It’s the proposed north of Horsham development of course, where the charge is reduced to £50 / m2, a 60 per cent reduction. It’s beyond belief that anyone would wish to subsidise the destruction of a greenfield site in this way.

So what does the proposal suggest? Doesn’t it suggest that the business case for a development north of Horsham shows it isn’t viable?

Wouldn’t it be more sensible to spread the various elements of this proposed development around the whole of Horsham District and so obtain more money from developers to fund the necessary infrastructure changes?

However, you look at it, nothing make sense and it demonstrates, yet again, why people believe that the Horsham District Framework Proposed Submission is badly flawed and not fit for purpose.

On top of all this, we have the Gatwick question hanging over our heads. If a second runway were to be built at Gatwick, the whole question of how many new homes and how many new employment opportunities would be required would demand a major rethink of any long term housing and employment policy.

So why play games? Let’s scrap the proposed north of Horsham development, which doesn’t seem to make any sense in terms of location and financial viability, and prepare an interim strategy, which fits the needs of the whole of Horsham District.

The Horsham Society is concerned about the past, present and future of the town. It seeks to promote good planning and design for the built environment and open spaces. Membership of the Horsham Society is open to anyone, who shares these concerns. For more information, visit our website www.horshamsociety.org or telephone 01403 261640.