Should Horsham have its own town council?
The formation of Horsham’s own town council could become a possibility once a neighbourhood plan has been approved.
North Horsham has a parish council, but the rest of the town is represented by the three neighbourhood councils of Denne, Forest and Trafalgar.
Frances Haigh, leader of the Lib Dem group at Horsham District Council, says the three organisations play an important role in the town, although one not widely understood by many residents.
Back in 2011, the Localism Act gave new powers to communities, including the right to produce neighbourhood plans.
The three neighbourhood councils took advice about how they could do this and were given two options:
Either to form a single parish or town council first, which would need a petition for residents for a governance review, and then produce a plan
Or form a neighbourhood forum which could produce a plan and once that had passed at referendum. They would have the right to trigger a community governance review for a town council without needing a petition.
They went down the second route and formed the Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Forum, which has involved many other organisation the Horsham Society, Horsham Town Community Partnership, businesses and elected councillors.
Cllr Haigh said: “The work in producing the plan has been immense. Some readers will call the various events held in Swan Walk and the postcards where they were asked to write down what they wished for the town.
“I chaired the forum for many years and then handed over to Andrew Cooke who has done sterling work in bringing the plan finally to fruition.
“This summer, the plan will come to referendum, and all of who have been involved very much hope that the town’s residents and businesses will come out in support of what is your plan.
“I should stress that the plan does not include any allocations of sites for homes – these have been left to HDC. However, it does provide a lot of important protections for our precious green spaces. In addition, it has a lot of policies which feed into planning policy, such as for environmental issues and sustainable transport.
“It also has proposals for community projects which have been suggested by you, the residents of Horsham, and it is to be hoped that some of you will come forward to help make these happen.
“But more importantly, once the plan is approved by the referendum, Horsham town can request a governance review for the formation of a town council. Bring it on!”
For supporters of a town council, Bexhill over in East Sussex may prove a model to follow.
The town is the main settlement in Rother, which like Horsham is covered by a district council.
After years of campaigning Bexhill’s own town council was formed last month.
What do you think about Horsham having its own town council? Email your thoughts to our letters page.