Horsham District Council can confirm that the Horsham District Local Plan timetable has been delayed, due to an unexpected announcement by the Government’s adviser on the natural environment in England. The extraordinary meetings of Cabinet and Council that were scheduled to consider the Local Plan during November 2021 have now been postponed.
This delay is due to the Council receiving a Position Statement on 14 September from Natural England. Natural England is the national statutory body that oversees the management of wildlife and habitats across the UK.
The Position Statement explains that it cannot be concluded that current water abstraction within the Sussex North Water Supply Zone, which includes Horsham District, is not having an impact on sites in the Arun Valley that are internationally designated for rare habitat protection. It advises that development, such as new homes and new commercial buildings, within this zone must not add to this impact. Of particular concern is the threatened extinction of the Lesser Whirlpool Ramshorn Snail, which is particularly susceptible to changes in water levels in the Arun Valley. More information can be found on our Water Neutrality page.
The Council is therefore unable to ensure a sound and legally compliant Local Plan until more is known about the impacts on the Arun Valley Special Area of Conservation, and until a Water Neutrality Strategy for the area is developed. It has been working and continues to work with other affected local authorities Crawley Borough Council, Chichester District Council, South Downs National Park and West Sussex County Council as well as Southern Water, Natural England and the Environment Agency on the issue of water neutrality as part of its local plan evidence base
Due to the unprecedented nature of this unexpected set of circumstances, we will need to wait until this partnership work is further progressed before the Local Plan can be published (the ‘Regulation 19’ consultation stage). The Council will update the Local Plan timetable as soon as it is able to do so.