LETTER: ‘Warning to all parish councils’

At a recent Horsham Association of Local Councils meeting on June 3, Horsham District Council gave a short presentation on the District’s ‘Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment’ document, which identifies potential development land in every parish in the Horsham District, and assigns each site a colour depending on their perceived suitability for development – Green for Deliverable (a ‘sustainable’ site that can be developed within 5 years); Yellow for Developable (a site not ready for immediate development, but available within 5 to 10 years); and Red for Not Currently Developable (sites with potential for development, but with some factor that would need remedying).

The HDC representatives left the meeting shortly after this presentation. After they had left, a small pack was given to all parish council representatives present, containing a map of sites from the 2009 SHLAA and instructions for parish councils to respond with any amendments and additional sites by June 24. That is just three weeks in which to assess the document, notice the changes made to the designation of many of the existing sites, and respond on this highly important matter.

Now, this affair raises three important questions:

1) Although a short time for questions was allowed following the presentation, why did the HDC reps leave before any questions on this document and accompanying instructions could be asked?

2) What happens with the parish councils who were not represented at the HALC meeting – are the changes to the 2009 document going to be made without their consideration or consent?

And 3) why is such a ridiculously short timeframe for consideration being given, which will prevent any public consultation by the parish councils, when HDC has until 2015 to make their report?

This SHLAA document identifies some 163 sites around the district able to take six or more houses, and changes in designation have been made to many of them.

This letter is being written as a warning to all parish councils and to anyone with an interest in the changes to their local area to contact firstly their district councillors to request an extension to the June 24 deadline in order to allow full public consultation.

For reference, neither the 2009 document nor this latest one underwent public examination – the sites were selected by the Strategic Planning Department at HDC based on locations subject to planning applications (even ones that have been refused) or where developers and landowners had expressed an interest.

Secondly, around half of the councils in the district are considering the production of Neighbourhood Plans and so I urge anyone interested to contact their local council to get involved or to encourage the production of a plan in those areas not yet considering doing so.

It is down to us as residents to ensure that changes to our villages and towns is community led and not developer led. HDC have persistently shown a lack of regard to the residents of this district, so can they be trusted with planning our futures for us?

Martin Dale

Stane Street Close, Codmore Hill, Pulborough