Campaigner’s research reveals funds owed to Horsham District Council by developer

Community campaigner Paul Kornycky. Pic Steve Robards SR152137 SUS-150915-131939001
Community campaigner Paul Kornycky. Pic Steve Robards SR152137 SUS-150915-131939001

Discrepancies in the amount of money a developer at the prominent west of Horsham site should have paid Horsham District Council have emerged.

Thorough research over a period of months by community campaigner Paul Kornycky, from Rudgwick, has helped to reveal the funds owed by Countryside Properties to the council.

New homes at Wickhurst Green by Countryside Properties ENGSUS00120131204082254

New homes at Wickhurst Green by Countryside Properties ENGSUS00120131204082254

As part of a section 106 legal agreement signed with the developer, the council can receive extra money towards affordable housing if house prices rise above a certain level.

The agreement relates to the major development at Wickhurst Green south of Broadbridge Heath, where Countryside is building hundreds of homes.

At a full council meeting held at Parkside in Horsham on Wednesday September 9, Claire Vickers, cabinet member for planning and development, defended the council’s data analysis protocol.

In response to a question posed by Mr Kornycky, she said the council does not take data supplied by developers at ‘face value’, and the data is ‘scrutinised by a group of officers’.

However, she also admitted ‘discrepancies’ exist.

She said: “Further research into this matter has been undertaken and Countryside Properties have accepted there are discrepancies in viability assessment figures.

“Senior officers are working with Countryside Properties to ensure these figures are clarified. Once they are established they will be made public.

“The council does not take data supplied by developers at face value.

“All data is scrutinised by a group of officers across the council to ensure accuracy and consistency, and that ultimately the council secures the necessary contributions that our communities require.”

In asking the question, Mr Kornycky, who is a prominent campaigner over the future of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre, said any extra profit would be equitably shared between developer and council if selling prices exceed an agreed threshold.

He then asked Mrs Vickers to provide an update on research undertaken to establish if there were ‘errors’ in the data supplied by Countryside, and to provide details of the checks taken by the council to ensure the data is not taken at face value.

Earlier in the meeting, Mr Kornycky’s wife Sue asked how much section 106 funding is set aside by HDC for affordable housing.

She said: “I am aware that the council has section 106 funds in reserves, earmarked for affordable housing.

“So I would have expected that any council grants or expenditure towards affordable homes schemes would be taken from those funds, rather than from revenue.”

Brian Donnelly, cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “We work with our registered social landlords to enable affordable homes for our district. We use the funds we receive from section 106 for affordable housing to help with the delivery of these homes.

“We currently hold £4.6m in section 106 monies earmarked for affordable housing. £4.3m is committed to projects.

“We are anticipating further section 106 receipts for affordable housing as development progresses throughout the district.”

After the meeting, a number of councillors offered their congratulations to Mr Kornycky and his wife Sue for their research and questioning, with one suggesting they should stand for election.

Mr Kornycky has submitted a number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act in order to obtain data and correspondence between the council and Countryside Properties.

He added that his offers to undertake the necessary analysis for HDC on a voluntary basis were refused.

A council spokesperson said: “As part of the section 106 agreement signed with Countryside Properties on its West of Horsham development south of Broadbridge Heath there is an affordable homes review mechanism, which allows money to be clawed back by the council if house prices rise above a certain level.

“In terms of disclosure of information, all requests for information are addressed fairly and properly and within the Freedom of Information legislation.”

Declaration figures to reveal the extent of the discrepancies have not yet been published.

Declarations are required when every 100,000 sq ft of property is sold, Mr Kornycky said. He told the County Times a number of factors may have caused the data error.

He said the square footage declared by the developer should exclude garages and also shared stairs and corridors in blocks of flats.

Including them would be to understate the sales prices achieved per square foot. This is the most likely error, Mr Kornycky said.

Alternatively, affordable homes figures may have been included, which would also suppress the perceived sales prices achieved.

Another possibility is Help to Buy or Right to Buy shared equity schemes may have been incorrectly accounted for, Mr Kornycky added.

Countryside and fellow developer Berkeley Homes are currently building a combined 2,000 homes on either side of the A24.

The developments - Wickhurst Green to the west of the A24 adjoining Broadbridge Heath, and Highwood to the road’s east - received outline planning permission from the council back in 2010.

In July, the County Times reported a £14m black hole in funding to deliver infrastructure projects agreed as part of the developments.

Writing in this week’s newspaper, Mr Kornycky condemns the council for their handling of his requests for information.

He writes: “Umpteen emails, questions at council, Freedom of Information requests, all seemingly dealt with to hinder me, rather than willingly embrace my help.”

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