District ‘would be doomed’ if Horsham local plan is delayed
Horsham councillors have rejected calls for a year-long delay to production of the district council’s Local Plan.
The plan is undergoing a review and is due to be adopted in autumn 2022.
But Mike Croker (Green, Bramber, Upper Beeding & Woodmancote) asked for a moratorium until the impact of the pandemic on the district is more clearly understood.
Mr Croker tabled a motion during a meeting of the full council, stressing the need for all policies in the Local Plan to be underpinned by evidence.
He raised concerns that some of the documents being used in the review would be out of date post-Covid.
He added: “Making the right decisions regarding our planning policies has never been so important.
“We do not know what the ongoing effect of the Covid-19 pandemic will have on future demands or housing, office or other employment space.”
Mr Croker said planning officers had been ‘facing the impossible task of planning for a future which will be affected, potentially very significantly, by world events that are still playing out’.
He cited the increased move to home working as a reason for concern, especially as one of the policies in the new Local Plan talks about ‘the growth of the office economy’.
While there was sympathy from many councillors, the motion was rejected.
Brian Donnelly (Con, Pulborough, Coldwaltham & Amberley) said: “We would all love to have a year or two to rehash the plan, which has caused problems for every one of us.
“But the simple position is that we have no option.
“We have to go for it otherwise we get no plan. If we get no plan we’re doomed and the developers will just push in and will get their developments through on appeal and the whole district will suffer.”
Proposed changes to the national planning system have left councils up and down the country facing the prospect of having to find room for thousands of new homes each year.
Chief executive officer Glen Chipp, said: “The government has made no secret of their intention to reform the current planning system.
“It is apparent from the consultation document on those reforms that local planning authorities will arguably have less control under the new system.
“It is also highly likely that housing targets will increase under the new system.
“It makes no sense to delay our plan so it falls under a new planning system, the details of which are as yet unknown and especially if there’s a risk of higher housing numbers under that new regime.”