Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Rookwood - Paradise Lost or ...?

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?

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Housing - It's a numbers game - Take 2

As my 9 Nov 2020 post explained, Horsham District's new minimum for housebuilding (as calculated by the mandatory central government 'standard method') is 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'. 

I also noted that the results of a central government consultation were eagerly awaited, as this would increase the District's annual target to 1715.  Astute political observers will have noted that many Tory MPs were less than impressed with these proposals, resulting in reversion back to the previous 'standard method', including the continuing use of 2014 projections, thought by many to be past their sell-by date, but with a 35% uplift for 20 cities, including Brighton and Hove (B&H).  

So the 'not as bad as it might have been' news is that Horsham's target baseline remains 920pa.  The potentially worrying bit, especially as far as the southern part of the district is concerned, is contained in the duty to cooperate requirement, as B & H had already said that they could not meet their previous 'standard method' target, so adding on an additional 35% just adds insult to injury, and more pressure on its neighbouring districts and boroughs to help out.

Previously, Horsham District has been able to argue weak linkage to B&H's travel to work and housing market areas, but this time who knows!  (This aspect of the standard method is discussed in more detail on Lichfields' blog.) 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Housing - never mind the quality, feel the width

Many of you may well be aware of two recent government consultations: Changes to the Planning System, and the Future Homes Standard.  The Green Party, and environmental organisations such as Friends of the Earth, have commented publicly on the shortcomings of the latter (not emphasising Fabric First, in the latter case) and the worrying proposal regarding a three zone approach for development planning.

Locally, Mike has been appreciative of the work done by the South Downs National Park authority with regard to low carbon buildings as encapsulated in their recent Sustainable Development Supplementary Planning Document and has recently asked if Horsham DC could follow SDNP's example (CO29).  

From the minutes:

Councillor Mike Croker asked Councillor Claire Vickers, Cabinet Member for Planning & Development, the following question:

‘Would the Cabinet Member for Planning and Development join me in congratulating the South Downs National Park planning authority for adopting a Sustainable Construction Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which, amongst other measures, encourages use of Passive House standards for all new dwellings, and requires Passive House certification for 10% of all new dwellings in a development of 10 or more dwellings?’

The Cabinet Member replied:

‘I am happy to join you in congratulating the South Downs National Park. We work closely with the SDNP and will be applying the new SPD in the determination of any planning applications we make as part of our delegated authority agreement.’

In reply, Councillor Croker asked a supplementary question:

‘I’m pleased that you join me in this. But recognising the significance of this SPD and the current climate emergency, would she also consider the production of a similarly rigorous SPD by Horsham District Council that is fit for the challenges presented by the ongoing climate emergency, bearing in mind that policy 39 of the draft Horsham District Local Plan requires that all development should maximise energy efficiency?’

The Cabinet Member replied:

‘As you are probably aware, a SPD has to hang off a policy in an adopted Local Plan and the SDNP have recently adopted their Plan. This Council however is in the process, as you know, of renewing its Local Plan so the Strategic Planning team are fully focussed on the preparation of the next stage of this Plan, which will contain enhanced environmental policies. Once the Plan and its policies are in place we can then look to provide supplementary guidance where we feel there is benefit in doing so.’

Councillor Croker made a final statement:

‘I thank the Cabinet Member for her relatively positive approach to this and look forward to working with her in future once we get the Horsham District Local Plan past the finishing post.’

Rest assured that Mike will be following this up once the draft HDLP reaches Regulation 19 (examination by external inspector).



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