David Moore: Why no public meeting to explain HDC strategy?

Horsham Society
Horsham Society

The furore over Horsham District Council’s plans to destroy a large area of countryside north of Horsham rumbles on. The continuous stream of letters to the County Times and the large attendance at the public meeting organised by North Horsham Parish Council show the strength of feeling against the proposal.

It’s difficult to believe that it was only in April this year, when the possibility of providing a fully funded NHS A&E receiving hospital was finally kicked into touch, that comments made on Facebook by Cllr Rae were published in this paper.

He is reported to have said, ‘The West Sussex County Times asked whether the possible provision of a new hospital within the proposed North Horsham development was ‘a bribe’, of course it was’.

His remarks continued to an obvious conclusion, ‘Without a fully funded NHS A&E receiving hospital I cannot see how such a huge development can be justified – can you?’

Yet here we are four months later with a proposal to build only 2,500 rather than 4,500 new homes but with a huge chunk of land allocated for a possible business park.

With a strong possibility that a business park will never be built, the reality could be 4,500 homes within the foreseeable future.

Surely, the current proposal can’t be yet another example of ‘a bribe’ as was so eloquently expounded by Cllr Rae earlier in the year?

Whilst we’re on this subject, it’s interesting to see that the promise of a new hospital, if new homes are built in North Horsham, remains as a carrot within the documents, which are currently out for consultation, even though we know it will never happen.

We keep seeing such promises in planning applications of what we might get if we allow massive new developments to proceed.

For example, planning permission for the 2,500 new homes west of Bewbush (Kilnwood Vale) allows for the construction of a new railway station.

Now we have the North Horsham proposal, which also allows for the construction of a new railway station.

It doesn’t seem likely that two new railway stations would be built between Horsham and Crawley.

Even if one new station was built, it would inevitably mean the closure of an existing station on the line.

We’ve also seen this month that Network Rail intends to invest £4.5 million to improve Littlehaven station.

Would anyone waste money doing this if a sensible business plan had been put forward by a developer or the council to justify building a new station a mile further up the line?

With the greatest of respect, it would appear that the detailed Sustainability Environment Report has been tailored to fit the Preferred Strategy document.

It’s supposed to generate the Preferred Strategy document.

The council should be prepared to arrange a public meeting so that the anomalies in the Preferred Strategy and other documents can be explained to the public during the consultation period.

Assuming no major changes are made by the council, it seems pointless to allow such a flawed document to be subject to criticism at the Examination Hearings in 2014.

Rejection of the Preferred Strategy at that stage will do considerable harm to the District.