Lidl is coming to Horsham, hopefully
Residents have reacted with delight to the news that Lidl is planning to open a new store in Horsham on the site of the former Dreams store in Foundry Lane.
The Horsham Society welcomes this devevelopment and considers it to be a suitable site. It also welcomes the increase in choice and competition that it will bring to the town.
Action is needed to stop the loss of local jobs
Many of us have thought, at least at some point in our lives, that it was worthwhile to travel for a total of two or three hours a day in order to have the job that we really wanted. Other people have no choice and have to do this because that is where the work is and there is no job paying enough nearer to home. Long hours commuting mean less time with friends, partners and children, less time to do things in the evening and to be involved in the local community.
Horsham District Council’s latest consultation document on local employment confirms that Horsham is continuing to lose jobs; that by the measure that the Council chooses to quote as an indicator of employment activity, the district ranks 288th out of 353 in terms of economic growth. In short, in the Council’s own words; “withoutfurther employment growth a ‘dormitory district’ will be created with people travelling to work outside the District during the day and only returning in the evenings or at weekends”.
Given this, much more urgency is needed than expressed in the Council’s consultation document; action is required on a more ambitious scale. It is insufficient to just plan to meet expected need. The trend in increasing outward migration to work needs to be reversed. Loss of local employment reduces the vitality of the town and leads to a poor quality of life for families where one or more people have to commute significant distances to work.
There needs to be a firm commitment to create sites that will provide a large increase in local jobs within 5 years; and more still over the following 5 years. At the least this may require 14 to 17 hectares (ha) within 5 years and 30ha in total within 10 years rather than the 47ha suggested, but may not be realised, over 20 years. Given the urgent need why has there been no start on the Business Park planned as part of the North Horsham development? Only a relatively small 4.6ha are proposed but it would be something. The employment growth objective ought to be phrased in terms of a specific reduction in the number of people travelling elsewhere to work, rather than just a target number of hectares to be covered with buildings with buildings.
The Council propose several relatively small sites across the District. Rather than several small business locations developed where current opportunities exist, sites should be provided to a plan. There should be one or two sites that are of a significant size allowing each business park to be spacious rather than cramped, likely to attract a range of quality companies with the opportunity for synergy between them. There does in addition need to be one or two sites within walking distance of Horsham Town Centre so that town centre vitality can be maintained and increased. We have lost far too many offices from the centre as offices have been converted to residential.
We once hoped for a University campus on the Novartis site and when that opportunity was lost we at least expected a high-tech business park but now it looks as if this opportunity might be squandered. The site is owned by WSCC and there is a risk that it will be used for further homes rather than jobs. The Council in their Strategic Housing Employment Land Availability Assessment, (SHELAA), show the site as “excluded” and expected to be used for housing! Yes, we do need more affordable homes, and they should be provided on the strategic sites already agreed, but we also need local employment. Building houses on the Novartis site would be exactly the opposite of what any sensible employment plan aimed at providing local jobs, replacing our lost town centre offices, increasing town vitality and reducing out-migration to work should include.
If the Council agrees with Horsham Society that increased employment is needed close to the town centre why is there no reference to the future of Hurst Road where in due course the fire station, police station, magistrates court and sorting office could all close? Why no consideration of the future use of the RSA carpark by the station and the Sainsbury site, the redevelopment of which is regularly considered.
In the Strategic Housing Employment Land Availability Assessment, the only land close to Horsham Town that is indicated as deliverable within 1 to 5 years is the 4.6ha North Horsham Strategic site!
The consultation document proposes several possible employment sites across the District. Amongst them it raises the possibility of a site to the south of Hillier’s Garden Centre on currently undeveloped countryside, adjacent to the upper reaches of the river Arun that runs through Chesworth Farm. While employment sites are needed, this does not seem like a good location. It is outside Horsham’s current built-up area boundary and beyond the town’s natural boundary of the Horn Brook. The A281 on which it is located is very badly connected to the north, west and south of Horsham requiring all traffic to either go through the town centre or thread its way through narrow residential roads.
Another proposed site is at Graylands, Langhurstwood Road. This would transform the site, which currently houses start-up businesses in small buildings amongst trees, in to a larger site three times its existing size. The site if not developed would form a useful buffer zone between the countryside to the north and the North Horsham Strategic site to its south.
The consultation document talks about the town’s strengths and opportunities. The opportunities should be “to provide new high-quality employment space without delay” and “to effectively promote the town to businesses seeking new premises”. The Council should be active in promoting the town with its “relatively highly workforce, desirable location and good schools”.
This article by David Holmes comments on Horsham District Council's Consultation on Employment, Tourism and Rural Development.
Nellie Laughton's Coronation Cup
Can you throw any light on the history of this ‘Coronation Cup’ presented by Mrs Nellie Laughton in 1937?
One of our members recently came across the cup but has no recollection of why or how it came into his possession. Horsham would have seen many parades and celebrations in the year of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, but what might this cup have been awarded for, and to whom? Or possibly it was one of a number that Mrs Laughton had produced for different events.
If you have any information please contact John Steele on 01403 272814.
A glimpse of the past
Paving malfunction in East Street
Last October (2017) workmen took up a section of the blockwork in East Street outside the Hong Kong Chinese takeaway to access services below the pavement.
Nothing special about that you may think. But when East Street was upgraded some years ago the paviours were laid in a particular pattern at considerable expense. It should have been obvious to the workmen that they had to be relaiod in the same pattern, but no. They were relaid randomly leaving the area looking a complete mess.
We contacted West Sussex County Council which promised to get UKPN to sort the problem out. Almost five months later we are still waiting for the paving to be relaid.
Update: the remedial work was finally completed in late March - not perfect but nearly so.
Remembrance Garden upgrade underway
This Spring Horsham District Council is giving the Remembrance Garden by the River Arun a much needed upgade. The cost is being met from the contribution that developers' are required to make towards community infrastruture.
The Garden was created by Mrs Nellie Vesta Laughton JP, a well known philanthropic figure in the town in the first half of the 20th Century. She bought the land in 1925 and had the garden laid out in memory of her late husband. Although he hadn't died until 1925 the memorial tablet in the Garden says "...and those that gave their lives for us 1914 - 1918". The work included landscaping, a small bandstand, swings and a paddling pool created by widening the mill leat stream.
Over the years the Garden was poorly maintained. The Horsham Society made a big push in the 1980s to renovate and maintain the Garden. New benches were put in, the memorial tablet was fished out of the river and mounted on the stone pedestal and a lot of planting work was done. Sadly a gradual deterioration set in once again. The banks of the leat became more overgrown, the crazy-paving paths became even crazier and the two bridges started to give concern about their long-term safety.
Gospel Hall closes its doors after 154 years of worship
Successful towns never stand still but evolve over time to accommodate changes in fashion, commerce and the local economy. One measure of the success of a town like Horsham is the speed with which buildings and shops which fall empty are refashioned and reborn in a new form. We are seeing this as the impact of the internet is changing the face of our shopping streets. Favourite shops close, as do some where one wonders how they clung on so long, only for others to take their place. The shift from places to buy goods to places to consume services and enjoy experiences is moving ahead apace. Nail bars, hair salons, coffee shops and cinemas and yes, shops to browse, make impulse buys and collect internet purchases, rapidly fill empty spaces. We are lucky that such is the confidence in Horsham’s local economy that we have a smaller proportion of voids, as empty shops are called, at any one time, and they fill faster, than many less fortunate towns. But it’s not just in shops that we see such changes. In December the Gospel Hall in Denne Road (pictured above) closed its doors after 154 years as a place of worship. It was built in 1863 in a simple, functional style by Charles Eversfield, owner of Denne Park. It became one of the largest meetings of its type in southern England, made up largely of local tradesmen. The church has now moved to Appleyards at 72 Brighton Road and changed its name to Appleyards Bible Church. The Gospel Hall has been sold and there are plans to convert it into a hair salon. It will be good if an interesting building with such deep historical connections with the life of town has found a new use so quickly, and one so emblematic of the early twenty-first century.
A monstrous carbuncle
When it was announced that Piries Place car park was to be replaced Ray Dawe, Leader of Horsham Council, was quoted by the West Sussex County Times as saying any redevelopment needed to “fit into the townscape of Piries Place”. What has emerged manifestly fails the test he set.
The Planning Committee has approved a huge five storey monstrosity similar to that illustrated in the January Newsletter. It is simply too massive for the location and will dominate Horsham's venerable centre. Although partially redeemed by the late addition of a ‘green wall’, we do not believe the Council in years to come will tolerate maintenance costs of up to £30,000 a year. After all, the Shelley fountain was scrapped because of maintenance costs far lower than this.
HDC’s normal excuse for waving through sub standard design is that the councillors dare not risk losing some expensive legal challenge. But this is not a proposal from some outside developer - this is our own council’s plan to redevelop its own car park. It could do far better than this, and Horsham deserves better.
What account was taken of national planning policy which says permission should be refused for development of poor design that fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of an area? One cannot escape the conclusion that building the largest cash cow possible trumped all other considerations.
This case also highlights the potential for a perceived lack of transparency that can arise when a council is both developer and planning authority. There is a strong argument for a change in the law to transfer the planning responsibility for such applications to another authority such as the county council.