Mayfield Market Towns’ housing calculations have been exposed as highly inaccurate – some of them off the mark by a staggering 40%.
The error was exposed at Friday’s Examination of Horsham Council’s Main Modifications, when the company tried, once again, to derail the District Plan. Earlier last week Mayfields pledged not to “pre-empt” the planning process, but it appears that this promise does not extend to undermining the plan itself.
The nine hour hearing should be the final stage of the District Plan’s progress through the Examination process. However Mayfields’ spokesman, John Rhodes repeatedly called on the Inspector to reject the plan as “unsound.” Three years ago Mr Rhodes was one of four experts on the Practitioners Advisory Group which helped to draft the government’s NPPF, so he is well placed to negotiate every loophole in the law:
Mayfields was one of more than 20 property companies giving evidence at Friday’s examination – all of them ‘number crunching’ statistics in an effort to push the District’s housing numbers higher and higher to accommodate their various proposals. Mayfields’s figures were the highest of all, with Mr Rhodes citing the unmet needs of neighbouring councils as justification. However, his argument came unstuck when he claimed that Crawley’s plan had a shortfall of 7,000 homes, when in fact the figure is 5,000 – an error which was corrected by a Crawley Council representative at the hearing.
In the light of these inaccuracies, Albourne Parish Councillor, Nikki Ernest speaking on behalf of eight local Parish Councils, said she felt it was wrong for developers to cite the unmet needs of London and Brighton & Hove councils which had not objected to Horsham’s modified plan and were not present at the examination:
LAMBS’ barrister, Tom Cosgrove had to wait until late in the afternoon to present his case, urging the Inspector to accept the Plan as “sound” and to put an end to “uncertainty”. Mr Cosgrove then challenged the possible inclusion of a reference to a “new settlement” emphasising once again how unsuitable the area is and how unpopular the proposal is with local people. He said that Mayfields’ claims to have local support were totally unfounded, calling the company’s Mori Poll “one of the most warped questionnaires you will ever come across”:
Mrs Ernest also urged Mr Slater not to include the reference to a “new settlement” saying that she believed it would render the plan “unsound”:
Throughout extended Examination process, LAMBS has strongly supported the District Plan, with the campaign group’s lawyer often invited to speak on the council’s behalf. However, there is one point on which LAMBS and the council do not agree – namely, whether there should be review five years after the plan is adopted. Mr Cosgrove warned the Inspector that this would “undermine the certainty of the plan-led process”: