‘Planning system needs rebalancing so residents’ views aren’t ignored’

As seen in last week’s County Times, feelings continue to rise over the threat of more speculative housing development and it is worth recapping on how we got to this position, writes reader Roger J. Arthur, of Rusper Road, Horsham.

A housing development near Horsham
A housing development near Horsham

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was supposed to respect the aspirations of the local community, with decisions made by elected councillors.

But developments have proceeded, in the face of community resistance – often on green and flood prone land, leaving inadequate infrastructure – because the NPPF left developers in the driving seat.

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Arundel and South Downs MP Andrew Griffith was quick to read the message from Chesham and Amersham (by-election) where voters gave his party a good kicking.

He has written to constituents in Heath Common, regarding a speculative proposal for 100 dwellings on the Longbury Wood site, off Rock Road in Heath Common, with a survey for residents to complete, at www.tinyurl.com/553hmj5. He is to be congratulated for that.

But it seems from your letters column that Jeremy Quin (whom I stood against in 2015) has not been so quick off the mark. Perhaps he feels that his position in a General Election would be far less vulnerable (than in a by-election) and that he can afford to be complacent.

So what has prompted the Clarion Housing Group to propose their 100 house development at Longbury Wood, which is not a preferred site for development in the neighbourhood or district Plans?

It is not difficult to guess. They know that if a district plan has not been approved by Horsham district councillors, then the unelected Planning Inspectorate may well approve speculative proposals – over the heads of councillors. What an opportunity for Clarion!

We can only urge all residents who are concerned with such speculative proposals to demand that councillors properly finalise the district plan and get it approved by the Planning Inspectorate asap, while asking for an explanation as to why it has taken so long.

MPs might help to close such windows of opportunity for developers by allowing more time for councils to adjust their plans when they have to resubmit them for approval – which often occurs when there is a change to government policy.

When it comes to a General Election, it is likely that the majority of voters in Chesham and Amersham will return to their normal voting habits – because then the national issues will take precedence.

Sadly, we can expect something similar in Horsham District, which may encourage our MPs to be complacent.

Perhaps they would like to reassure us that they are not going to be complacent?

Whatever they do, they must seek to ensure that the aspirations of residents are given more weight. They must lobby to rebalance the planning regulations –so that the aspirations of their constituents are not overridden.