Horsham Blueprint – The Peoples Plan
Horsham’s “Blueprint Neighbourhood Plan” is finally ready and the people and businesses of Horsham town (within an area formed by Trafalgar, Denne and Forest Neighbourhood Councils) are invited on the 20th October 2022 to choose whether to accept it or not by a referendum.
The Plan, which was created over many years by local residents, businesses, workers and visitors, will designate 23 specific areas within Horsham Town as ‘Local Green Spaces’ and will also ensure that green corridors (such as the Riverside Walk) are maintained for people and wildlife.
The plan does not allocate sites for housing development but includes many important policies such as providing affordable homes and keeping Horsham a distinctive market town.
Residents of Forest, Denne and Trafalgar will shortly be receiving their Polling Cards and Businesses have been invited to register for their separate business referendum.
Two Plans or One Plan
You may be wondering why the neighbourhood plan is called the “Blueprint Business Neighbourhood Plan” and thinking if there a Business Neighbourhood Plan is there a separate Residential Neighbourhood plan?
The short answer is that there is only one plan the – the rather confusingly called “Business Neighbourhood Plan”.
So why is it called a “Business Neighbourhood Plan”? This goes back to 2015 when Horsham District Council originally designated Horsham Blueprint as a “Business Neighbourhood Forum”. Neighbourhood Planing Groups have to be designated as “Business Forums” where the area to be covered by the proposed plan is “wholly or mainly business in nature”.
The idea being to ensure that plan represents the views of local businesses as well as local residents.
So a “Business Neighbourhood Plan” encompasses the views and aspirations of both local residents but also the local business community.
So that’s why it’s called the “Horsham Blueprint Business Neighbourhood Plan”; and that’s why there will be two referendums on the 20th October. One for residents and one for businesses.
So how did the Plan come about?
In 2015 Horsham District Council designated Horsham Blueprint as a Neighbourhood Forum under the Localism Act of 2011. The Act enables local communities to develop their own Neighbourhood Plans which when adopted forms’ part of the local planning framework.
The Forum consisting of representatives from Denne, Forest and Trafalgar Neighbourhood Councils together with local civic groups including the Horsham Society worked in consultation with the local community and businesses to develop the draft Neighbourhood Plan. Community consultation took many forms, including public exhibitions in Swan Walk, surveys and engaging at local community events.
The completed draft Neighbourhood Plan was the subject to public consultation during the Spring of 2020 and the Plan was revised based on comments received and where legislation allowed. The resultant Neighbourhood Plan was then submitted to Horsham District Council who conducted a further round of public consultation.
It was then assessed by an Independent Examiner who confirmed that the plan was sound subject to some minor modifications. Both Blueprint and Horsham District Council accepted the Examiner’s proposed modifications.
Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic played its part in delaying Horsham District Council from publishing a Decision Statement until August 2022. It’s the publishing of the Decision Notice that triggers the Referendum timeline.
So what does the proposed Blueprint Neighbourhood Plan contain?
Consultation during the development of the plan revealed a significant level of agreement on priorities for Horsham which helped formulate a vision and broad objectives for the proposed plan, these were translated into fifteen policies in the plan that will influence development of the town over the next 14 years.
Unlike the Horsham District Council Local Plan, the Blueprint Neighbourhood Plan does not allocate sites for development but has policies with the objective of ensuring that any development in its area meets the needs of local people
It is recognized that for some, aspects of the plan will be disappointing. For example many wished that Rookwood and Muggeridge Field be designated as Local Green Spaces. Unfortunately these sites did not satisfy the criteria laid out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The Independent Examiner, concurred with this assessment.
It should be noted that Horsham District Council is currently undertaking a review of the Horsham & District Local Plan, which may trigger in due course a review of the Neighbourhood Plan.
Broadly the policies cover:-
- Location & Energy Efficient Design & Character of Development & Housing Needs: to ensure that the design of any development enhances the character and heritage of our town as well as being environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
- Retaining & Enhancing the Vitality & Viability of Horsham Town Centre: to maintain the economic health of the Town Centre in balance, employment in offices and retail with residential development.
- A Sustainable Horsham as a Visitor Destination & Welcoming Public Realm for everyone from the very young to the elderly and the infirmed: to support and encourage Horsham Town development and expansion of tourism facilities, accommodation, attractions and activities as a vibrant attractive place to visit and stay.
- Protecting Existing & Encouraging New Commercial Premises: to promote the area as a good place to start and build a business particularly in the digital and energy sectors.
- Local Green Space & Green Infrastructure: to help protect much loved green spaces in Horsham, 23 green spaces have been identified in the plan, including Horsham Park and Chesworth Farm, in addition to the small pockets of green space which line many streets and to ensure green corridors are maintained for people and wildlife.
- Transport & Sustainable Movement: to ensure that residents have a network of attractive streets and public spaces which encourages pedestrian use and cycling.
Hard copies of the plan can also be viewed at HDC Offices, Chart Way (ask at reception) or at Horsham Library (ask a the first floor enquiries desk).