No final decision yet on new strategic housing sites for Horsham district

No final decisions on allocating new strategic housing sites have been made yet, Horsham District Council has confirmed.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 3:19 pm
The Horsham district is required to build thousands of new homes (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
The Horsham district is required to build thousands of new homes (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

As the district’s minimum housing requirement is expected to rise significantly, HDC would have to find sites for thousands of new homes.

A review of the council’s local plan, which was first adopted in 2015, is currently in progress with a consultation on a draft document held in early 2020.

A number of developers have been lobbying for their sites to be allocated, while residents have mounted campaigns against their inclusion in several areas.

At the weekend, reports in the national media suggested the council’s ruling Conservative group had already made decisions about which new sites should be included in the revised local plan.

This was put to both the council’s leader and cabinet member for planning and development but neither have yet responded to the County Times.

Separately, the council has confirmed that no sites have been allocated in relation to the local plan and it is currently finalising its evidence base.

This is due to go to a full council meeting where a strategy will be adopted in July/late summer.

The date for this meeting is currently scheduled for Wednesday July 28.

If agreed, the revised local plan would be subject to a period of public representation before being examined by an independent planning inspector next spring.

At a national level the Conservative government is drawing up planning reforms to increase housebuilding.

But critics argue these would lead to unachievable targets being set and huge swathes of countryside being lost to development in areas like West Sussex.

Professor Dan Osborn, chair of the Campaign to Protest Rural England’s Sussex branch, said: “The government’s raft of legislation on the environment, planning and agriculture is creating doubts about whether they are serious about protecting the environment on which all our health and wealth depends.

“They are giving themselves powers to alter well-researched protections and are proposing to dilute environmental assessments in planning as well as removing well-established rights of local communities.”

Citing the example of Buck Barn, where Thakeham wants to build 3,500 homes, he argued to allocate this would ‘blow a hole in nature conservation around Horsham’ given its proximity to the Knepp rewilding site.

But previously the developer has announced plans for a £5m wildlife bridge across the A24 and other ecological measures if the site is allocated.

Professor Osborn also described how the government had still failed to address the lack of affordable homes, was proposing to transfer costs from developers to under-resourced local planning authorities and he also mentioned the huge number of planning permissions granted but unbuilt.