On 17 September Councillors were treated to a special presentation on Rookwood. It was billed as a workshop, but in fact took the form of a slick sales presentation by Avison Young, who are private property consultants appointed by the Cabinet, behind closed doors, many years ago. The main new aspect was a ‘back-up’ proposal to develop just the southern half – more on that later.
The presentation largely ignored all the issues raised by Friends of Warnham, Susssex Wildlife, Trafalgar Neighbourhood Council and others. Instead councillors were treated to a series of elaborate artist’s impressions, together with promises that turning Rookwood into a housing estate will magically improve its environmental qualities. It looked exactly like any other developer presentation.
The glaring contradiction in all this is that Councillors, by law, are supposed to remain neutral on any planning application prior to the vote. Yet Rookwood is being actively promoted by the Cabinet and the ruling Conservative group in general. Planning is supposed to be non-political, but developing Rookwood is a Conservative policy – not that they ever told us that in an election.
Clearly, Rookwood will enter the vote on strategic sites at a massive disadvantage. Because we own the site, it’s the only one that can generate a profit for HDC (although half the money goes to the Lucas Estate, which is not widely known). We’re simply not comparing like-with-like.
That’s why public opposition remains Horsham’s best line of defence.
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