The Examination of Horsham’s District Plan began on Tuesday morning within hours of yet more flooding on Mayfield’s proposed High Street in Wineham.
And it appears that the weather was a bad omen for Mayfields because within the next three days the LAMBS campaign had received two big boosts. The first was the news that MPs Nicholas Soames and Nick Herbert have requested permission to speak against Mayfields at the Examination, the second that LAMBS’ barrister has been invited to support the District Council, giving him the best opportunity to challenge Mayfields’ proposals.
The hearing so far has been largely about numbers, with Horsham’s planning officers defending a house building figure of 650 per year against a wall of developers clamouring for more. By far the biggest claims came from Mayfields who lost no time in trying to discredit the Council by number crunching employment and migration figures to justify a call for 975 new homes per year.
On Thursday morning Mayfields joined forces with three other developers to issue a Statement of Common Ground which contained a barrage of facts and figures designed to push up the District’s housing requirement. By Thursday afternoon the Inspector, Geoff Salter appeared to be yielding to the pressure and the Council’s housing figure was creeping towards 730, but was still a long way from what Mayfields would need to build a new town.
There had been fears that Mr Salter would rule that the plan was “unsound” and suspend the examination, but he stated that he had no intentions of doing so without hearing all the evidence.
I could just go home tonight and send a letter saying that the exam is suspended,” he said. “But I’ve got to resolve this – that is why I am spending time on it and giving everyone a chance to give their opinion. That is why I have decided to proceed, but clearly there are a lot of diverging opinions here.
LAMBS Chairman, Geoff Zeidler who was at the hearing says that although it was a challenging day for Horsham District Council, Mayfields gained very little ground in the discussions.
At the end of the day it was felt that there was nothing that significantly reflected a material step that advanced MMT’s case,” he says. “And there was much discussion about distributed deliverability and sustainability which could counter it”.
LAMBS will not be back at the three week examination until November 18th when Inspector is dedicating half a day to considering the New Market Town option. Mid Sussex MP, Nicholas Soames and Arundel and South Downs MP, Nick Herbert have asked to appear before the Inspector on that day to speak against Mayfields’ proposals.
LAMBS barrister, Richard Turney will be adding his weight to Council’s arguments armed with all the evidence collected by the LAMBS team over the past six months.
“I believe he will be in a position to be as effective as if he was independently representing LAMBS,” says Geoff Zeidler.