Horsham’s cabinet backs local plan which proposes thousands of new homes at Buck Barn, Ifield, Southwater and Billingshurst

Horsham District Council’s draft Local Plan has taken its next step to being adopted.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 10:19 pm

During a meeting of the cabinet on Thursday (July 15), members agreed to send its Regulation 19 planning document to the full council for approval later this month.

The Plan will then be subjected to a further six weeks of consultation – starting in September – before being submitted to the Secretary of State.

Councillors were met by a group of protesters outside Parkside, the majority of whom were opposing the inclusion of 3,250 homes on land West of Ifield in the Local Plan – the first stage of a 10,000-home development.

Others were opposed to the inclusion of a new settlement of 2,100 homes at Buck Barn – a further 900 would not be able to be delivered during the Plan period.

Owen Hydes, chairman of Nuthurst Parish Council, told the meeting: “At parish level we have not listened to any support at all for a new town at Buck Barn.

“A new town quickly planned by a developer and destroying acre upon acre of the Low Weald is not what our communities want.”

Describing the out-pouring of opposition to the proposals, Mr Hydes said almost 20,000 people had signed a petition, with 8,000 writing to the government and hundreds more bombarding the district councillors with emails and letters.

He added: “Local people have used their voice – now they want to be listened to and to see local democracy actually work.”

Questions were asked about why a development at Adversane had not been included in the Plan rather than Buck Barn.

And some councillors sought assurances that unpopular plans for 1,100 homes at Rookwood Golf Course had been completely dropped.

Concerns were also raised about biodiversity and the impact the new homes – and the traffic they would generate – would have on the environment.

Government housing targets piled on Horsham have demanded 897 homes per year be built.

On top of that, the district has a responsibility to take on some houses which neighbouring Crawley simply cannot find the space to build.

A ‘stepped trajectory’ is proposed with a housing target of 900 homes in the first five years of the Plan, rising to 1,180 homes per year for the remaining 12 years.

Roger Noel, cabinet member for leisure & culture, summed up the problems faced by the council, especially given the calls and objections from all corners about the sites on the table.

He said: “We have a statutory duty, I’m afraid, imposed on us by this government to provide housing in this area.

“Wherever the houses go, I’m sorry to say it’s going to interfere with biodiversity and the green infrastructure that we already have.

“It pains me but we are going to have to put these houses somewhere – we can’t walk away from it.

“We can’t walk away from the direction we’ve been given by government to put these houses in.

“If we say no to Buck Barn then we get the houses in Adversane, or we get them in Mayfield, or we get more built around Horsham.

“We have to put the houses in.”

Other strategic sites proposed in the Local Plan include 1,200 homes on land west of Southwater and 650 homes on land east of Billingshurst.

Officers were asked why the council even had to have a new Local Plan, with suggestions that it could simply rely on its current one which stretches to 2031.

This was not an option.

Lynn Lambert, cabinet member for planning & development, said: “This council is facing an unprecedented housing target and, without a Plan, the consequences will be more and uncontrolled development across the district, which does not provide the infrastructure which the communities need.

“The council is therefore faced with making difficult choices, including the location of the new homes.

“In any Local Plan, there are always those who do not agree with the sites selected by the council.

“However, there will be an opportunity to raise these issues as part of the Regulation 19 period of representation, where you can raise concerns and suggest amendments to the Plan.”

The full council will meet on Wednesday July 28.