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Could North Horsham plans have been halted in 2009?

We recently reported on changes put forward by the planning inspector to the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) which stated a higher level of housing is required, pushing the figure up to 750 homes per year.

The North Horsham site was proposed for development back in 2009, at this time North Horsham Parish Council objected and another 26 comments were received, most of which were objections.

If this was the case 6 years ago why were the brakes not put on this development back then?

Liberty became involved in 2010, at this time Horsham District Council (HDC) could have decided to not allocate the land, however this would not have prevented Liberty from pursuing the application. The critical issue being that Horsham District has a 5 Year Housing Land Supply shortfall, this makes defending against or refusing even controversial housing schemes virtually impossible.

In 2011, the then Leader of Council presented well progressed plans for the North Horsham site to a number of Conservative members for the first time at a scheduled meeting. The then proposed plan was 4,000 to 4,500 dwellings plus land set aside for a hospital.

Following the enactment of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in March 2012, and the Clinical Commission Group’s (CCG) decision not to provide the hospital those previous supporters of North Horsham seemed to make a U-turn.

Did HDC have another opportunity to stop the development at this point? Could they have decided not to allocate the land?

Yes, but that would not have stopped Liberty their plans were too far advanced, the 5 Year Housing Land Supply shortfall still exists and government policy (NPPF) is on their side.

As to the HDPF what were HDC Members initial thoughts as to housing numbers?

Early Member discussions suggested around 11,500 dwellings for the district over 20 years, 1,000 of which could have gone to North Horsham; following The Inspector’s Examination of the HDPF that number has now increased to at least 15,000 in the same time frame.

HDC’s initial conclusion is that they can accommodate roughly half the extra houses. The Inspector has stated he favours development around Horsham, Southwater and Billingshurst.

The inspector also stated the red lines should not be breached at the North Horsham site, so the only change could only be to increase density within the permitted 10% margin.

The inspector has set a timetable for work that Councils need to do. Any delay over this process on the Council’s part could see developers submitting further damaging ad hoc applications across the District.

Accepting that North Horsham now cannot be stopped, is HDC’s task to make the best of a bad job?

Sadly yes, importantly HDC must ensure the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and the section 106 values are set at the correct levels and that it captures the best possible level of community benefit and infrastructure in order to make such a development even tolerable.

Looking at the facts presented, here, if North Horsham is seen now as so unacceptable, why did the 2007-2011 administration not kill it off in 2009 when it had the chance?

Did the 2007-2011 administration take a gamble with our future lifestyle and environment  on the promise of a possible hospital and lose?

Finally, there have been many campaigns and attacks launched upon the “so-called architects” of North Horsham, most of whom were not even elected until 2011, this being the case were those attacks ever justified?

Horsham District Council is currently working on changes to its strategy, a report on where additional new homes will be accommodated will go to meeting on March 18. Subject to Council approval, consultation on the amendments to the Council strategy will take place between March 23, and May 5.

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