In a surprise development, Cllr Paul Clarke (Conservative) has resigned without warning as Leader of Horsham District Council. He has only been in the role since May, when intense arguments about the Local Plan forced the resignation of previous Leader, Cllr Ray Dawe.
No explanation has been given for this shock announcement. Horsham & Crawley Lib Dems respect Cllr Clarke’s decision and thank him for his service. However, at a time when Council services are under enormous stress, this internal Conservative power struggle is a serious distraction.
The Local Plan was originally supposed to be approved as far back as November 2020. On four separate occasions, the Tory group have set a deadline for a decision – and each time they have cancelled. The latest delay has been provoked by the intervention of government regulator Natural England, who insist that any new development must not increase the pressure on local water supply.
This extended delay means we can no longer meet government-imposed housebuilding targets. The danger is that we could lose control of planning decisions altogether. At the same time, many local West Sussex builders and suppliers are at risk from the ongoing chaos.
Cllr Louise Potter (Leader, Lib Dem Group) commented: “In just 6 months, the Horsham Conservatives have lost two leaders, a deputy leader, and their local association chairman. Horsham District desperately needs clear leadership and vision to take us through the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and housing demands. This is nothing short of chaotic, and it’s highly damaging for local residents.”