There have been a number of well researched and challenging letters published from objectors to the proposed development in North Horsham that is being actively promoted by some Conservative Horsham district councillors in support of the US-based Liberty Property Trust.
The local Tories have form in splitting the town with Albion Way dual carriageway and then letting Sun Alliance desecrate a church in the name of employment opportunities which have never materialised. Now some of them wish to do it again on unsubstantiated figures.
I sat through a presentation by the developer and its Horsham representative earlier in the year. The proposal lacks credibility and reminded me of something from the set of Stepford Wives. Those that have seen the West Malling Kings Hill development will know what I mean.
It should be for HDC to call the tune not a US-backed UK developer who failed to answer even basic questions at the meeting I attended or since in the WSCT.
Horsham has a great deal of spare office accommodation; it also has a substantial shortage of affordable, smaller housing. The first requirement should be to audit that and see if any is likely to be re-let or if it could be turned into high quality single and two person apartments.
That should focus on the young and retired as we need to opt for higher housing density to cater for longer life expectancy and more single people needing smaller properties with the focus on building on the existing Horsham community and facilities.
There are other options making better use of spare / under-used land in the urban areas. That includes around the station and the marshalling yard, Searle’s View and potentially building over the station and other car parks.
Can we try to persuade people to make better use of the existing housing stock by increasing occupancy levels with incentives? Let’s de-dual Albion Way, build over the Sainsbury’s car park and other car parks, leaving the car parking spaces at ground level. Add apartment floors to the central Horsham car parks.
The problem needs visionary thinking that is sensitive to people’s needs and fears yet reduces urban sprawl and helps the community of Horsham; concepts that are alien to many in the current Tory administration.
The idea of a new station is a complete non-starter. There is no room on the peak trains to and from Horsham already and no train paths on the critical London-Brighton line, so where will the new capacity come from to cater for the additional commuters?
If Gatwick gets a new runway, as now supported by the Tories following their belated volte face after 40 years, that will focus further business development around Crawley not Horsham; Horsham will add to its dormitory role.
That runway may also push the 57 LeQ noise contour (which defines where development is allowed) towards the proposed North Horsham development so parts should not then be built on. What is HDC, the developer and those Tories who support the proposal response to that?
It seems to me that there is a move to ‘rail-road’ the North Horsham proposal through by Conservative councillors who seem to have been taken in by the proposals and have not asked the right questions and challenged the developer.
It would also be good to think that the impact of the necessary new housing was being spread more evenly across the district. Driving down to Shoreham recently I noticed that nothing has happened to the old cement works site south of Bramber which is still within HDC area.
How many good quality one and two person higher density apartments, flats or houses could be developed reasonably aesthetically there yet with good access to Brighton and elsewhere? But that might be a development too close for comfort for some in the current HDC administration.