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 Planning: letters of representation

June 2010 

4 June 2010

Head of Development Control
for the attention of Hilary Copplestone
Horsham District Council
Park House, North Street
Horsham RH12 1RL

Dear Ms Copplestone


I write on behalf of the Horsham Society to object to the above. The Society notes that the purpose of this outline application is to establish the principles of the development of some 48 hectares of land to the east of the A24 including the building of up to 1044 dwellings and miscellaneous ancillary works.

The development is subject to the Masterplan and to Design Principles based on the related Supplementary Planning Documents with their references to character areas, to local features and vernacular designs but without excluding the possibility of forward looking designs and the Society notes that this is a greenfield site without an established context. The development is to be to a high standard and it falls into two main aspects - the layout of the site and the design of the buildings.

Layout of the site - the position of the principle access to the site has been determined by the masterplan; thereafter modern design practice requires the developer to distinguish between traffic-only routes and spaces to be shared by drivers, cyclists and walkers.

The Society is satisfied that, subject to certain points of detail, this distinction will be made and provide the opportunity to develop a hierarchy of streets of a higher density balanced by areas of a lower density with significant "managed" open spaces which will avoid the monotonous spread of development which has been a feature of so much of the recent undistinguished growth of Horsham and elsewhere.

Design of the buildings - this is considerably less satisfactory. There is no attempt at forward looking design. Instead there is a total dependence on vernacular designs which may reflect a curious requirement for "character areas". The Society shares the wish to avoid monotony but, as it has made clear from the outset, this cannot be contrived by arbitrarily recreating a variety of designs drawing on historical models, local or otherwise. The motivation is understood but it can only be achieved by a variety of designers as any conservation area will show.

The local character itself is greatly valued but, so far as it can exist today, it is not just a matter of appearance but reflects, and is determined by, the availability of materials and methods of construction which, like occupiers’ requirements, are changing over time and must be allowed to change in design.

The difficulties we face in accepting changes in design today bear a striking resemblance to the difficulties in accepting the changes which faced the furniture industry in the 1960s and eventually brought about a revolution in furniture design. Housing developers say they adopt traditional designs because planning authorities require them and they sell. Buyers say they buy them because they have no choice and both parties share a concern that existing properties could be devalued by advances in design.

Reasonably enough the lack of experience of forward looking designs raises the question what advances might we expect and good examples, which are hard to find, will vary but one example is attached from an area which shares much the same history as the Horsham district.

Our future prosperity lies in our buildings being judged not as objects but for the contribution they will make to our environment and the lives of our community. It is for the sake of these future generations that the Society attaches so much importance to high standards of design.

Yours sincerely

Oliver Palmer
Vice-President, The Horsham Society
Chairman, Planning Sub-Committee