Don’t change our rural character
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NPPF is clear that all local plans should be for a minimum 15 year period and that a plan does not become automatically out-of-date after five years.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.