Last Saturday around 200 passionate placard carrying protesters met on fields to be concreted over if Horsham District Council’s controversial, contentious plan for a major housing development, business park and feeder roads goes ahead.
Some 800 acres of virgin countryside would be sacrificed and local economist Harry Shutt told The District Post: “This would be disastrous environmentally, increasing pollution and there is no economic need to do it.”
Nick Flint, Rector of Rusper and Colgate added: “This is wrong on so many levels and there’s been a lack of transparency, too.” Councillor Liz Kitchen voted against the proposed development, telling us: “This is absolutely the wrong place to do this – it would leave just a small space in the strategic gap between Horsham and Crawley.”
So what is the Council’s rationale in pressing ahead? They state the need for affordable housing and for a properly organised plan, required by law, providing jobs and protecting the community against further expansion for 20 years. Otherwise, they say, there is a risk of ad hoc speculative developments being approved on appeal.
Other substantial schemes are proposed for the district, at Southwater for example, and major housing projects are already being completed bordering Tanbridge School and Newbridge Nursery with substantial further plans envisaged for the Novartis and Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre sites.
There has been sustained growth in surrounding villages, too. Enough is enough say the protestors, some of whom are not personally affected but feel strongly about the need to protect the tranquil beauty of the area north of the A264.
However, some landowners are willing to sell up, taking the opportunity to make a substantial profit.
RAGE (Residents Against Greenfield Erosion) emphasise the need to respond to the public consultation by June 27. The proposal will then go to the Planning Inspector with hearings later in the year before a final decision is made.
Councillor Roger Arthur is quoted as saying: “The case for a new business park has not been made. It is being driven by HDC’s increasing need for business rate income and the figure of 4000 new jobs is not evidence based.”
Liz Kitchen’s final comment was: “This is bad planning – the Council previously rejected it and we haven’t looked at the impact of a second runway at Gatwick if that proceeds.”