The Government announced last week that it was consulting on proposals to reform the planning system in England. Unless that is changed it would oblige Horsham District Council to almost double the number of homes from the current Government minimum target of 920 homes to 1,715 homes a year.
The Council has consistently challenged the Government over housing numbers and its aggressive timetables. It is clear however that the Government sees construction as a key driver of economic recovery.
We understand the requirement on all councils to produce plans that show where future development could go in their areas and we recognise that strong demand for new homes exists in West Sussex. We equally understand that not having any plan would not help and would instead, play into the hands of speculative developers. This would result in uncontrolled development across the District.
The Council will be taking legal advice before responding formally to the consultation but it does not believe that the house building industry can deliver 1,715 homes per year. It is difficult enough already to find land that has few constraints for development and to absorb 1,715 homes every year would make that task virtually impossible.
The Government has said that there should be a public consultation on these new numbers and proposed much simplified planning rules and so we are seeking the views of our residents so that they can be incorporated into our response to the Government.
We want to hear from residents and so we have set up an on-line poll for people to vote to say firstly whether they agree or disagree with our view on the proposed house build numbers and secondly to give us views to help our response to the Government’s consultation.
To share your views, visit http://www.horsham.gov.uk/planningwhitepaper
Under existing requirements from Government, the Council is a good way through preparation of a new plan and this is needed by November. Our aim in that has been to try to minimise the impact on the District of new house numbers, maximise the infrastructure benefits and improve biodiversity. The numbers in that plan would be considerably lower, based on the existing Government minimum target of 920, plus the requirement to contribute to meeting wider needs. That certainly isn’t a painless process since the homes will have to go somewhere but it at least bears some relationship to the local demand. For the moment it is our intention to continue with that process pending legal advice on the status of such a plan if new legislation is introduced.
Cllr Claire Vickers, Cabinet Member for Planning and Development, said: "We have been trying for a considerable time to get answers from the Government about a number of things as regards the house build numbers that we are required to provide: no answers have been forthcoming. We were hoping for a constructive dialogue. To now have proposals that would give us almost the highest house building number in the south east of England was a bolt from the blue. We accept it is, at this stage, only a consultation document but it came as a huge shock. We very much hope that as we are a good way through producing a new plan we can continue with that and thus put off for some years the imposition on the District of the sort of completely unattainable housing numbers that have now been proposed."