Horsham Councillors raise concerns with the government over targets for thousands of new homes

Horsham District Council has raised concerns with the government about the ‘huge and unprecedented’ housing demands it has been told to meet.

As part of its local plan review, the district must allow 965 homes to be built every year between now and 2036 – 17,370 in total – as well as taking on hundreds that neighbours such as Crawley do not have the space to build.

This adds up to 1,200-1,400 homes per year – a task leader Ray Dawe described as ‘extremely difficult’.

At a meeting of the cabinet, members agreed to put the local plan out to a six-week consultation, running from February 17 to March 30.

Claire Vickers, cabinet member for planning & development, said: “While I think it’s important that we keep to a timetable for having a new local plan, I must add a cautionary note that I’m greatly concerned at the difficulty of achieving the huge and unprecedented housing numbers that the government has set us.

“However, we are in correspondence with the minister about this and we will have to see what happens.”

The local plan was adopted in 2015 and has to be reviewed every five years.

This latest review includes proposals for nine major sites, including 10,000 homes west of Ifield, and 22 smaller sites – though Mrs Vickers stressed that no decisions had been made about any of them.

She appealed to people to take part in the consultation process, which will see exhibitions held at Billingshurst Community Centre, Swan Walk shopping centre, Ifield West Community Centre, the Ashington Centre, Henfield Hall, and Beeson House, in Southwater.

Static exhibitions will be housed in all libraries in the district.

Among the smaller sites listed were: 50 homes at Barns Green, 100-150 at Broadbridge Heath, and 350 at Henfield.

Mr Dawe said of the housing demands: “It’s something we will endeavour to achieve but I do think it’s going to be extremely difficult to get the numbers.

“And that’s why I think we’re very much hoping that our conversations both with our MPs and correspondence with the minister will yield some result.

“At the end of the day, we are instructed to do certain things and we will endeavour to do them – but we may not succeed. Let’s hope we do.”

Members were less than happy with the demands being made of Horsham, with deputy leader Jonathan Chowen asking how the government could have come up with such high numbers.

He said: “I really do ask everyone who will be concerned about that number of houses coming to our district – and really changing our district – to engage fully with the consultation and the MPs, because they are the ones who can really influence government.”

Phillip Circus (Con, West Chiltington, Thakeham & Ashington) told the meeting he and other councillors had taken a coach trip round the major sites to get a feel for what was being proposed.

He said: “I listened carefully to the comments that people made – asides that members made on that coach trip – and frankly if it was up to members, there was certainly no enthusiasm for building on any of those sites.

“We are in a position where we have targets that are imposed on us by government, we are having discussions with the government and through the two MPs to try and get an alleviation of the burden on Horsham district.

“But I thought it’s worth making the point that, if it was solely up to members, I doubt if there would be approval for any site.”

The draft plan is scheduled to be submitted for inspection in January 2021. If all goes well, it will be adopted in December 2021.

To find out more, log on to www.horsham.gov.uk/planning/local-plan

List of major sites

Land at Adversane – 3,500/4,000 homes

Land east of Billingshurst – 1,200 homes

Land west of Billingshurst (two sites) – 850/1,000 homes and 500/750 homes

Land west of Ifield – 10,000 homes

Land at Kingsfold – 1,000 homes

Mayfield, north east of Henfield – 7,000 homes

Land at Rookwood, Horsham – 900/1,000 homes

Land west of Southwater – 1,200 homes

Land at Buck Barn, West Grinstead – 3,500 homes

List of smaller sites

Ashington – 600 homes

Barns Green – 50 homes

Billingshurst – to be determined

Broadbridge Heath – 100-150 homes

Christ’s Hospital – 30 homes

Cowfold – 75 homes

Henfield – 350 homes

Horsham (Land at Hornbrook Farm) – 100 homes

Lower Beeding – 35 homes

North Horsham (Land at Mercer Road) – 300 homes

Partridge Green – 200 homes

Pulborough/Codmore Hill – 275 homes

Rudgwick/Bucks Green – 50 homes

Rusper – to be determined

Small Dole – 20 homes

Southwater – to be determined

Steyning and Bramber – 50 homes

Storrington and Sullington – 100 homes

Thakeham – 50 homes

Upper Beeding – 70 homes

Warnham – 50 homes

West Chiltington – 25 homes

Both Mannings Heath and Slinfold were looked at but no sites, other than those already identified in the neighbourhood plans, were seen as suitable for development.

****Link to Horsham District Council video explaining the local plan https://youtu.be/ItyYSCR_MHo

Karen Dunn , Local Democracy Reporting Service