North Horsham Parish Council should be ‘brave enough’ to fight for what it wants and produce a neighbourhood plan.
The majority of councillors voted to ‘actively pursue’ a plan, to sit alongside Horsham District Council’s planning framework, which was agreed back in November and allocated land north of the A264 for up to 2,750 homes and a business park.
Chris Carey, giving a presentation to the January NHPC meeting, explained that neighbourhood plans represented a ‘sea change’ to the planning system and a ‘massive opportunity’ for organisations such as parish councils.
HDC is not proposing to charge the new developer contribution Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on the North Horsham homes, but it could be levied on other future housebuilding in the parish, and councils with an agreed neighbourhood plan will receive 25 per cent of CIL.
Helen Ralston suggested there was a level of planning fatigue in the town, but added: “If we went down the route of not doing a neighbourhood plan I would question what is the role of the parish council in fashioning the future of the area.”
Several parish councillors also felt that NHPC should do what it could to have a positive influence on the North Horsham development.
Ray Turner said: “I think as long as it [the North Horsham development] is in our parish boundary we should have a role to play and that role is through a neighbourhood plan.”
Mr Turner had visited Liberty’s other development in Kent and described it as a ‘soulless place during the day’ and felt a role for them could be to ensure the North Horsham scheme ‘did not go down that route’.
But Tony Rickett did not think they could justify the cost and said they had been trying to influence HDC decisions over the last four years. He added: “The council have not listened to us and would they listen to us with a neighbourhood plan?”
Mr Carey suggested the plan could cost more than £50,000 to produce, with some areas spending in excess of £100,000.
Alan Britten, also a district councillor, suggested more healthcare facilities was something they could push for, as some of Horsham’s doctors’ surgeries were in a ‘parlous state’.
But he added: “My concern is there is a degree of cynicism, as I do not believe the Horsham District Planning Framework is going to be worth the paper it’s written on. The changes will come from Westminster.”
Frances Haigh explained that their neighbourhood plan could focus on homes for older people to retire to and where they had new nursing homes, areas she felt were not covered in the HDPF.
It could also protect green spaces and she suggested they should be ‘grasping what opportunities they can’.
Roger Wilton, chairman of NHPC, said: “I do not know if this is the time that we should drop the ball. I think this is the time that we need to engage and we need to try and influence things.”
Nicholas Butler said they should be ‘brave enough’ to fight for things they wanted through neighbourhood plan.
Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Forum is currently working on a neighbourhood plan for the unparished part of Horsham, which includes the town centre.
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