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 News archive

November 2006 

A Design Statement for Horsham Town

 

A note by the Horsham Society

 

 

Background

 

HDC is over half way through the process of creating a Local Development Framework for the District which will replace the current 1997 Adopted Local Plan.

 

The LDF will comprise a Core Strategy, General Development Control Policies, and Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) which provide detailed guidance to supplement the policies.

 

SPDs are produced by or in consultation with stakeholders but are not statutory documents or subject to public examination.  Nevertheless, HDC says they are “a material consideration in the determination of planning applications and carry more weight in the planning application decision making process than the former Supplementary planning guidance”. 

 

So far the only SPD published in draft covers Planning Obligations (broadly what are now known as Sec 106 Agreements).  The Masterplan for West of Horsham will be another Supplementary Planning Document.

 

 

Why do we need a Design Statement for Horsham Town?

 

The main reference document against which individual planning applications will be judged is the General Development Control Policies.  Following consultation. the final version of this has been submitted to the Secretary of State for approval.  (The key Development Control policies are shown in Appendix A.)

 

In drafting the document HDC decided against identifying areas of special character within the town (although they do feature in the current Local Plan) in favour of stronger overall requirements for a development to respect the context and character of the area within which it is located. 

 

Furthermore, the Core Strategy (CP3) makes specific reference developments being expected to “complement the varying character and heritage of the District, particularly as defined in Village or Parish Design Statements, Horsham Town Neighbourhood Character Assessments, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Management Plans or other design statements produced to indicate principles of good design applicable to locally distinctive areas”. 

 

From this it is clear that the Council’s intention is that development will be controlled by a combination of overarching requirements within the GDCP informed by Design Statements where these are available and have been adopted by the Council.  To form part of the LDF local design statements need to be adopted as Supplementary Planning Documents.

 

The preparation and adoption of a Design Statement for Horsham Town is an essential part of the LDF process.  Without such a Statement developers will have no guidance to which to refer when planning schemes and council officers will need to assess every application from scratch.  Given the very tight timescales which officials have to meet in turning applications around, and the inevitable turnover of staff, it is unlikely that they will always have the resources necessary to appreciate fully the historic, social, architectural and planning context of the many differing areas of the town.

 

The Neighbourhood Appraisals prepared by the three Neighbourhood Councils provide an excellent source of relevant material but are not of themselves sufficient to represent a design statement because in the main they are descriptions of what exists at present rather than what developers need to consider for future development.

 

Paul Rowley, Head of Strategic and Community Planning at HDC, has given his support for the preparation of a Horsham Town Design Statement.  But it has to be a document produced by the community and not by the Council.  A joint steering committee has been set up with representatives of the Horsham Society, the Neighbourhood Councils, and North Horsham Parish Council, with advice from HDC.

 

Development is both unavoidable and a necessary part of the way in which urban areas adapt to changing social and economic circumstances.  What is important is not how much development there is, or where it is located, but whether it is appropriate having regard to the character of the area, and is well designed.  We should not seek merely to replicate what we already have.  The diverse character of Horsham is the result of successive developments, of many differing styles,  each the product of its period.   A design statement needs to accommodate innovation and to continue to be relevant for years ahead.

 

This will be a challenging piece of work and there will be wide consultation with the community. 

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