The Planning Inspector has delivered his initial findings on the Horsham District Planning Framework. Crucially, like so much of the work and policies of the current arrogant and inept Conservative administration of Horsham District Council, he has found parts of the plan flawed and extended the deadline by six months to enable an acceptable plan to be submitted.
This delay will provide an opportunity to challenge the Inspector’s support for development in North Horsham. In particular to seek answers to a number of questions he has failed to address, including:
Why the Inspector has failed to recognise that the site is likely to be adversely affected by aircraft noise from Gatwick, both from the existing runway and more so if the proposed second runway is built? The new runway alignment would potentially put the site in the aircraft noise 57 LeQ contour. Under Government planning guidance no houses should be built in areas subject to such high levels of aircraft noise.
To ask why when the viability of the North Horsham development is critically dependent on the success of the business park, the Inspector has failed to acknowledge that when developing its site at West Malling, Liberty Properties substantially overestimated the demand for business premises and subsequently significantly reduced the scale of the proposed business park there? If Liberty got the forecast wrong at West Malling, why should he be convinced that they will be any more accurate in Horsham, an area where they have no track record? Although Liberty’s record on demand forecasting is poor, at Paragraph 23 of his decision, the Inspector relies on their estimate as a key reason for justifying acceptance of the whole scheme; the logic of which decision would seem flawed.
At Paragraph 23 of the Inspector’s interim findings he refers to ‘the potential for good rail access’. There is and can be no station to serve the site. Peak Horsham trains are full and cannot be extended. There are no additional train paths on the London - Brighton line that Horsham trains have to use, so increased frequency is impossible. So how can rail access for the site be potentially good?
These and other issues need to be fully addressed during the six month extension to enable the Inspector’s decision to be changed and the more rationale Liberal Democrat proposed Alternative Strategy of dispersion round the District be adopted.
Fortunately, that delay will also take us beyond the May local council elections when Horsham District will have the opportunity to hopefully elect a competent Liberal Democrat administration; an administration that will listen to people, having introduced the right for electors to speak at planning meetings to support the democratic process when previously running HDC.