Council leader Jonathan Chowen pledges a further £1million for climate mitigation and puts a revised Local Plan at the heart of new vision

Councillor Jonathan Chowen, the newly elected Leader of Horsham District Council, pledges a further £1million for climate mitigation and puts the environment and a revised Local Plan at the heart of the Council’s new vision.

Our Plan – Our Vision – Our District

On Friday 3 December 2021 Councillor Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead) was unanimously elected as the new leader of Horsham District Council.

Commenting on his election, Councillor Chowen said:

“It is an honour and a privilege and I am delighted to have been elected as Leader of the Council. I am looking forward to tackling the challenges facing our District and the priorities of our residents.

“Our District is consistently recognised as one of the best places to live in England and only last week Horsham was quoted in the top twenty.

“I want to protect and enhance Horsham town, our historic villages and beautiful countryside – not build all over it with imposed housing numbers that ignore the needs of our residents.”

On the paused ‘Local Plan’ review Councillor Chowen added:

“The existing draft Plan necessarily met the targets set by Government through large scale house building on greenfield sites.  Recent events have made this Plan undeliverable.

“Natural England’s position statement on water neutrality pauses all development in the District until a plan can be devised to mitigate the impact of Southern Water abstracting ground water near Pulborough to supply our needs.  Our consultants have already determined that there are no feasible options for the local authority to achieve 100% water neutrality on its own.  This is a wider problem which will require Government assistance and funding.

“The enforced pause of development means that we will have to reset our housing numbers because the current Government targets are clearly no longer achievable in this Plan period.  Michael Gove has also signalled that he plans to re-visit outdated assumptions in the standard methodology for calculating housing numbers.

“Large scale housing developments will be much more problematic and not feasible until there is substantial investment in large scale mitigating infrastructure, which could take years.

“Therefore the need of large scale strategic sites such as those proposed at Adversane, Mayfield, Rookwood and Buck Barn, or the 1200 houses a year target, now looks very unlikely.

“Using our current plan as a starting point, we will work very closely with the local communities, and the Parish and Neighbourhood Councils. Our focus will be to address their local housing needs, aspirations and priorities. We must ensure that the housing we do deliver is high quality, eco-friendly in design and we must prioritise brownfield sites where possible.

“Also, we will need to consider the real world impact of planning delays to businesses and individuals, its social impact on investment, affordable homes, schools and recovery from the pandemic.

“We have to let our communities live, grow, thrive and evolve, otherwise they become moribund and unsustainable.  We need the energy and enthusiasm of children and young people and the experience and wisdom of those in their later years. This will help to build diverse and sustainable communities.

“We also need thriving businesses, a strong rural economy, more home-working and encouragement for our young people to live and work in the District. This will help to preserve and enhance our way of life, culture, heritage, our environment and its wildlife.

“That is why the Council will be making a substantial further investment of £1million in our environment, delivering climate change initiatives and achieving carbon neutrality.

“My team and Horsham District Council are committed and determined to meet the challenges that we face, on behalf of our residents and the generations to come.”