Housing development ‘could become a lottery’ without a Horsham local plan in place

Housing developments could ‘become a bit of a lottery’ if a revised Horsham local plan is not put in place, a prominent parish council chairman has warned.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:33 pm
Malcolm Eastwood, chairman of both Henfield Parish Council and the Horsham District Association of Local Councils

Horsham District Council was on the verge of publishing its latest draft strategy for consultation back in July, but this was delayed due to further work needed to respond to new government planning guidance.

The forward plan now has a decision on the local plan due to be taken in November.

While there are many vehemently opposed to the plan and specifically where it seeks to allocate thousands of new homes, the counter argument is that no plan would leave the district wide open to speculative development.

Meanwhile a current lack of a five-year housing land supply is already causing Horsham District Council to lose significant planning appeals.

Huge number of development sites promoted or optioned

July’s draft plan considered a total of 19,860 homes are deliverable across the 17-year period of which 8,063 dwellings already have planning permission or are ‘otherwise identified for development’.

However the County Times has seen research showing that on top of the homes either approved or allocated in a neighbourhood or the local plan, sites totalling 45,000 homes are being promoted across the Horsham district, with sites for a further 30,000 dwellings with the potential of being optioned or with planning pending.

Malcolm Eastwood, chairman of both Henfield Parish Council and the Horsham District Association of Local Councils (HALC), said: “If we do not have a local plan the risk is any site could be brought forward by a developer and it becomes a bit of a lottery which ones are given planning permission and which ones are not.”

He explained how the district’s parish councils want to see a plan endorsed by councillors to reduce this risk as the closer a plan gets to being made the more weight an inspector can give it at any appeals.

A call for sites in 2019 and a subsequent consultation on potential allocations showed just how much land was being promoted for development.

‘Nobody likes housing requirement but we must have a local plan’

And while Mr Eastwood acknowledged that nobody likes the district’s proposed housing requirement, as it would be a substantial increase from the last plan, arguments made to the government to reduce it had ‘fallen on deaf ears’.

Therefore the task is to find the ‘least worst sites that would deliver the numbers, or all of the sites are potentially in the mix’.

He added: “The parishes when we had the last meeting, they said: ‘We must have a local plan and we must try to reduce the risk of speculative development’.”

He pointed out that HDC planning officers have to assess all sites against a number of planning criteria and then reveal the results.

These will be scrutinised by a planning inspector at examination and if there are any flaws these will be picked up on.

He acknowledged that some areas could be unhappier than others depending on where the allocations are located, but warned the alternative to a plan would be an ‘unlimited number of homes and an unlimited number of sites under consideration’ without much of the necessary infrastructure being provided.

He described how in his own parish of Henfield they had allocated sites in the neighbourhood plan, which had allowed them to start dialogue early with developers about what infrastructure and community facilities could be provided.

The alternative was to go to appeal with communities and developers fighting each other in front of an inspector.

Mr Eastwood called it a ‘very important period’ up to November’s meetings and called for dialogue to continue between HDC and the parishes.

He added: “We need to work together with the parishes and district council planning officers to deliver a local plan no matter how hard it is in terms of numbers.”

One area where the parishes want to see more work done is on ecology and how it would be affected by overdevelopment in some areas.