One of the biggest challenges that Bob & I face in the next few months is our response to the developing Horsham District Local Plan. This has already been out to public consultation (the 'Regulation 18' stage, now closed) and much work is being done by the officers (HDC employees) to reflect the massive number of comments.
Some aspects of the current local plan (Horsham District Planning Framework 2015- 2020), in particular the housebuilding target ('800 homes per year'), cease to be valid by the end of this November (basically those that contradict the current National Planning Policy Framework), although many of the policies remain. This housing target was calculated from a local analysis of the housing need to 'allow for increases in population, support economic growth, and also to support the wider economy of the Gatwick Diamond and beyond'.
The new minimum for housebuilding (as calculated by the now mandatory central government 'standard method') will be 920pa, plus 5%, plus an estimated 200 to 400 from our 'duty to cooperate' with surrounding local authorities that are 'running out of room to build'. To put this in context, there were just over 55,000 households in Horsham District at the time of the last (2011) census; roughly 60,000 now. If we assume a figure of 1200 per annum, the next decade would see an additional 12,000 dwellings built - an increase of 20% - against an Office for National Statistics (ONS) prediction of 12.5% population growth!
Does that sound bad? Well how does 1715 dwellings pa grab you? That's the number that the so-called 'mutant algorithm' contained in the government's 'Changes to the current planning system' consultation (now closed) would require. I've been told that these changes are subject to a ministerial decision, not a parliamentary debate, although many local MP's have spoken against the proposed changes. A decision is expected in December.
All this leaves Horsham DC with a bit of a problem, to put it mildly! The current majority approach appears to be to get the current draft plan, with its already excessive (in my view) numbers submitted to external examination by March 2021, which should 'protect' it from the proposed changes to the planning system numbers for 3 years (provided it passes examination and is subsequently adopted by HDC). Having no plan at all does not sound a sensible way to go, if HDC is to retain any control over development, as it would lead to 'planning by appeal' with the council constantly on the back foot, with no overriding plan to draw on.
Perhaps what we really need is for us all to check the back of our wardrobes for a 'Land in Nania' site, with infinite capacity... Do let us know if you find one! We'd also welcome more constructive suggestions!