The Novartis saga will rumble on for another month after it was revealed that a highways consultant appointed by Horsham District Council had not ‘critically looked’ at road safety audits.
West Sussex County Council wants to build up to 300 homes and 25,000sqm of employment space on the Parsonage Road site but there have been major concerns about safety and traffic congestion.
The application was discussed at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday evening (September 4).
The meeting heard vehement concerns from members of the public, including the Wimblehurst Road Residents’ Association, who felt safety issues had not been adequately addressed.
Claire Vickers (Con, Southwater North) asked if Peter Brett Associates, the consultants hired to review the county council’s transport assessment, had also assessed the safety audits provided.
The answer was essentially ‘no’.
She was told: “They did a very thorough review as we asked them to but they didn’t specifically look at the road safety audits – they haven’t critically looked at those.”
Mrs Vickers immediately called for the application to be deferred for one month to allow the consultants time to look at the audits and report back to the council.
She said the information was ‘crucial’, adding: “We have a duty to get this right and there are a number of huge transport concerns.
“I wouldn’t want to approve this application without all aspects of road safety having been addressed.”
Philip Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham and Ashington) agreed, saying there were ‘considerable legitimate concerns about safety’.
He said: “We really have to satisfy our residents, the residents affected, that we have gone into this to the nth degree – and I do not believe that we have done so.”
Mr Circus added: “We have a duty to the residents of Horsham to make sure that their concerns are properly aired, properly considered, and I do not believe that as of now that is the case.”
There was a suggestion from Tony Hogben (Con, Colgate & Rusper) that the amount of traffic predicted could be reduced by cutting the number of homes planned for the development.
With the report saying that 193 was the ‘bare minimum’ needed to make the site viable, he postulated that the application could be for 200 homes rather than 300.
The planning team urged caution, saying that such a cut could lead to a drop in quality or even see the development dropped completely.
Members voted unanimously to defer the application for one month while they waited for the consultants’ report.
They also asked to hear from Sussex Police about road safety and agreed to look at the amount of parking proposed for the site which some, including Horsham Denne Neighbourhood Council, said was ‘inadequate’.
Karen Burgess (Con, Holbrook East) said the decision to defer the matter was the right one, adding: “We need to get the transport and road safety issue water tight. Everything has got to be properly done.
“If we mess it up this time then we are going to be hammered by the public – and quite rightly.”