Horsham watchers will be well aware that the consultation on the draft Horsham District Local Plan included a proposal to sell off the Rookwood golf course for housing. As one of the few remaining large green areas inside the A24 / A264 boundary, this proposal resulted in a strong protest movement, with which Bob & I have a large degree of sympathy.
Over the course of the last few months, the council's ambitions have been rowed back to some extent, but many concerns remain, especially regarding the effect of any development north of the B2237 Warnham Road (including a 4-arm roundabout) on the function of the Warnham Local Nature Reserve.
A basic question for councillors is what sort of development, if any, would compensate for the loss of the golf course in environmental terms? As a green councillor, I would be looking for a high proportion of affordable housing, as well as adoption of Passivhaus building standards, to address the real housing need - healthy homes fit for the future for all.
However, the environmental loss is more difficult to quantify. You will have seen statements to the effect that 'the development will result in 10 / 15 / 25% biodiversity net gain' (other numbers are available, but they'll need to be 10 or more to get past the draft Horsham District Local Plan). Those wishing to find out more can read this short guide; the actual calculation methodology by Natural England is laid out here.
Clearly there are limits though: Sussex Wildlife Trust's president, Tony Whitbread, has said that there is no compensation for the loss of ancient woodland. Furthermore, open land with public access adjacent to housing has a general amenity value which should also be considered in any planning decision. So how will the council's proposals stack up?