Horsham plan endorsed after housing numbers raised

A planning inspector has approved a West Sussex council's planning framework after it was altered to meet his demand for a higher level of housing provision.

Horsham District Council had originally proposed an additional 650 homes a year over the plan period, but was asked by the inspector to increase that amount – initially to 750 and then to 800 per annum.

The inspector’s report said that the increase in housing numbers – from 13,000 to 16,000 up to 2031– is necessary to accommodate some overspill from Crawley Borough Council, which he said is unable to accommodate all its required housing expansion.

Claire Vickers, Horsham Council’s cabinet member for planning and development, gave a qualified welcome to the inspector’s decision.

She said: "The pressures on councils to build more houses and bring forward plans that conform to government demands are enormous and growing. Whether we agree with aspects of this plan or not, I am glad that it has at long last been approved by the inspector and we can now concentrate on getting the maximum community benefits from it."

The inspector said that he was approving the plan even though the council has not identified sites that would enable it to meet its target in the later period of its plan.

The authority, he said, should undertake a review within three years to identify sites to be made available in the second half of the plan period, in order to meet the target.

"I have taken what I consider to be a pragmatic approach to ensure that new housing can be delivered in the early part of the plan period," he said.

Anna Worthington-Leese, chairwoman of Storrington and Sullington Parish Council, said the approval of the plan would help protect communities against speculative applications on unallocated sites.

She said: "Here in Storrington and Sullington we have been besieged in recent years by developers trying to get permission for unsuitable and unnecessary developments prior to the implementation of both the Horsham District Planning Framework (HDPF) and a neighbourhood plan. 

"In the absence of the HDPF, some of these have succeeded at appeal and we are delighted that the whole of the district is now in a position to resist this and have the development it wants and needs in the places it considers appropriate."

The plan identifies three strategic development areas for at least 2,500 dwellings at North Horsham, around 600 dwellings west of Southwater and around 150 dwellings south of Billingshurst.

The inspector also approved the addition of a policy allowing for the redevelopment of a site previously occupied by pharmaceutical firm Novartis, which announced its decision to close its Horsham operation shortly after the original proposal was prepared.

The site will be allocated for higher education uses, but the plan will retain flexibility for other uses if no occupier can be found.

The council is expected to formally adopt the plan at a meeting on 19 November.

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