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 Current issues

February 2010 

West of Horsham Development Management Report - HDC's reply

 

23 November 2009


Dear John

Freedom of Information Act 2000
Environmental Information Regulations 2004
Request for Information - Land West of Horsham

Thank you for your letter of 18 October. As agreed at our recent meeting, I am writing to confirm the Council’s position.

As you noted at our meeting, it is unlikely that we will agree on the question of whether the deal was the best that could have been achieved. I will explain the context within which we made the decision and I hope that those who read this will understand that whilst this was a tough call, it was nevertheless the right judgement in the very difficult circumstances we were facing.

We commissioned the District Valuer to undertake a critique of the financial model supplied by the developer. This was to help test the cost and valuation assumptions that had been made and was one factor in the consideration the Council had to make about the future of the scheme. The District Valuer provides advice based on his opinions and knowledge of the market. Ultimately, however, the decision on whether a development is viable is for the developer. As you know, we have to take a much broader view of development proposals of this nature which go beyond the merits of the proposal itself. As the local planning authority, we are required to ensure a sufficient supply of housing land to meet the levels of development set through regional and local planning processes. If we fail to do so, the consequences are far reaching. We already have difficulties with land supply which will be made much worse if West Horsham falters. If that happens, we will see less favourable sites being granted permission, including through the appeals process. That would mean a loss of influence and control over design and the provision of infrastructure.

In considering the West Horsham scheme in June, therefore, we were not only looking at the District Valuer's advice. We had to weigh up the prospects of the developer abandoning the scheme and the impact of such an outcome. In addition, Members were alive to the fact that a major benefit of the scheme is the delivery of a highway solution that was favoured by the local communities over the alternative that had been promoted at an earlier stage. This in itself will add substantially to the cost of the development.

Much of the debate at the time and since has centred on the amount of affordable housing that can be secured. In some quarters it seems there is a belief that the District Valuer’s report demonstrated that the 40% target was achievable. As you know, this was not the case. He supported the Council’s counter-proposal for a package of affordable homes amounting to 20% numerically but containing a better mix of tenures more suited to meeting local housing needs.

After a long debate at the Development Control Committee in June, Members agreed that the economic climate, the practical realities and the consequences of failing to secure the development were so significant that we should agree to a package of community facilities and affordable housing that would be less than could have been secured in more favourable economic circumstances. However, the scheme will still deliver over £30 million of investment in improved road infrastructure, public transport, community facilities, open space and leisure facilities as well as a significant level of affordable housing.

We are now in a position where we are able to shape the details of the scheme, in order to secure the high quality development that is needed, because there is still a scheme “on the table”. This would not have been the case if the Council had taken a different decision in June.

Turning to the easements issue, I made it very clear to Council in September that Members had the choice to decide whether to recycle the capital receipt to support community facilities or not. It was always the case that the development would have to fund the easements. The issue in September was whether the capital receipt was used to ensure that local people got the benefit of those funds.

The redacted copy of the District Valuer’s report is now available on our Disclosure Log on the Council’s website under FOI/Disclosure Log/June 2009 via the following link:

http://horshamfoi.org.uk/documents/DisclosureLog/CEF%2023%20Redacted%20DVS%20Reporet.pdf

 
I am advised that, in accordance with the copyright statement on our website, the material may be re-used for non-commercial research and private study. Re-use (and this will include posting the information on another website) is subject to the following conditions, namely that the source of copyright is acknowledged; the information is reproduced accurately; the information is not used in a misleading way; the information is not used for the purpose of advertising, and not used for any commercial activity or resale. Users are encouraged to establish hypertext links to the Council's website to avoid breach of any of these conditions.

Finally, I welcome the Society's inputs to the detailed planning process and I am sure that by working together in this way we can secure the best possible design and layout for this major extension to the town.

Yours sincerely

Tom Crowley
Chief Executive
 

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