Don’t change our ru­ral char­ac­ter

West Sussex County Times - - Opinion - PAUL KORNYCKY SHEILAWHIT­E STEPHEN KNIGHT

Me­thinks Cllr Claire Vick­ers is con­fus­ing pub­lic con­cern over the im­plau­si­ble hous­ing num­bers with that of hav­ing a ‘new’ local plan.

Let’s get a few facts straight. The ex­ist­ing Local Plan, the HDPF, was adopted in Novem­ber 2015 and runs un­til 2031. Na­tional Plan­ning Pol­icy (NPPF) de­crees that such plans must be re­viewed and, if nec­es­sary, up­dated within five years of adop­tion. If this is not done, then five years af­ter the adop­tion date, an up­date to hous­ing num­bers will au­to­mat­i­cally ap­ply.

For some con­sid­er­able time (cer­tainly pre-Covid), HDC has only ex­pected to reach the ‘plan sub­mis­sion’ stage of their local plan up­date by Novem­ber 2020 and so th­ese ‘de­fault’ hous­ing num­ber in­creases were ‘al­ways’ go­ing to ap­ply, pend­ing adop­tion of a new plan around 15 months later.

De­spite re­peat­edly telling us that ‘our’ an­nual hous­ing re­quire­ment of 800 was go­ing to in­crease to 965, it has now been con­firmed that af­ford­abil­ity fig­ures re­leased last March have re­duced the 965 to 920.

That’s good news as over five years ‘just’ an ex­tra 600 homes will be re­quired, but HDC has al­ready over-pro­vided by 509 homes as at 31/3/2019.

The NPPF is clear that all local plans should be for a min­i­mum 15 year pe­riod and that a plan does not be­come au­to­mat­i­cally out-of-date af­ter five years.

In Hor­sham’s case there­fore the HDPF will ap­ply, with all its poli­cies, be­yond five years up to the adop­tion of any new plan, al­beit with the in­creased hous­ing tar­get. HDC use the phrase ‘no plan’ to de­scribe this pe­riod; why?

Ob­vi­ously the Covid im­pact will in­evitably de­lay the plan sub­mis­sion and HDC has re­cently in­di­cated that this will slip from Novem­ber un­til early 2021, with adop­tion an­tic­i­pated in April 2022.

Covid will also hugely im­pact the econ­omy, in­clud­ing the hous­ing mar­ket.

HDC must en­sure that hous­ing pro­jec­tions take this fully into ac­count as it will ex­ac­er­bate the fun­da­men­tal flaws in the gov­ern­ment ‘man­dated’ hous­ing needs for­mula, es­pe­cially the con­tro­ver­sial 55 per cent (un) af­ford­abil­ity fac­tor up­lift.

So, by all means, progress the local plan up­date but please don’t in­cor­po­rate an un­achiev­able tar­get nor a tar­get that will fun­da­men­tally change the ru­ral na­ture and char­ac­ter of Hor­sham District.

And, please don’t present 1,200 homes per year as some sort of rea­son­able mid-point tar­get, with­out ex­plain­ing that it would grow the district’s pop­u­la­tion by a mas­sive 30 per cent over the plan pe­riod.

But, I cer­tainly wel­come the op­por­tu­nity in an up­dated local plan to have em­bold­ened poli­cies to pro­vide greater pro­tec­tion for the coun­try­side and in­creased bio­di­ver­sity thereby help­ing keep Hor­sham District as a great place to live.

I pre­sume that such poli­cies will help block un­wel­come de­vel­op­ment of our much val­ued green spa­ces by un­scrupu­lous de­vel­op­ers. Rook­wood im­me­di­ately springs to mind. Now who is the pro­moter of that site? Oh dear, it’s HDC! by any de­vel­op­ment in the vicin­ity.

Or is Hor­sham District Coun­cil so badly cash­strapped that it will aban­don its prin­ci­ples of pro­tect­ing wildlife and sell off Rook­wood (which it owns) to de­vel­op­ers who will then ap­ply to the coun­cil for plan­ning per­mis­sion for hous­ing.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if Rook­wood re­mains on the list of pos­si­ble sites for de­vel­op­ment when the fi­nal draft of the Local Plan is re­vealed. com­plete review of pre­vi­ous think­ing on hous­ing and the coun­cil must be ro­bust in de­fend­ing un­nec­es­sary devel­op­ments based on pre­vi­ous out­dated think­ing and sen­si­tive sites.

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