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A PERSONAL VIEW

This article was first published in the July 2011 edition of Southwater Life magazine.

Southwater Downs LinkBy Barry Laflin

As a Southwater resident since 1969 I have seen many changes. At that time the main London to Worthing A24 road ran through the village, which had three garages and about three shops. On a summer Sunday it was almost impossible to get onto the Worthing Road because of the heavy traffic flow, but we put up with that as we were surrounded by beautiful countryside.

However, the traffic problem continued to increase so after years of campaigning we eventually got the by-pass, which as I recall opened in the early 1980s.

There was a price to pay, of course. It meant that the land east of the Worthing Road was turned into housing estates. But it was worth it, especially with the development of the Downs Link, and we got a doctor’s surgery, a chemist, a vet, a second general store and a post office! Much needed housing was constructed, together with a small industrial estate, and we welcomed many new neighbours into the village.

Fletcher Trust, the owners of the land west of the Worthing Road made two or three efforts to get planning permission to develop College Farm and Great House Farm. These were fought and turned down on the basis our new facilities were already getting overloaded by the continuing east side development and the fact that the planners had promised this was to remain part of the ‘Green Belt’ separating us from Christ’s Hospital, Barns Green, Broadbridge Heath and, of course, Horsham itself.

A few years ago there was great news for Southwater when the new health centre was built, together with a brand new retail area, Lintot Square, which replaced the, by then, shabby and overloaded original shopping precinct. There were a few snags for some of us when Lintot Square was completed. Flooding problems occurred due to lack of adequate drainage as a consequence of the Worthing Road being diverted off the old rail bridge, and an influx of Horsham residents by car finding it easier to use our Post Office has shown up inadequate parking provision in the village centre.

So nothing is perfect but overall the position is good. We have our main housing, shopping and industrial estates to the east of the Worthing Road and our beautiful countryside with access via the Downs Link to the west.  Southwater’s community has balance.

Then the late (in terms of being a minister) Rt Hon John Prescott introduced ‘Regional Housing Strategies’. The consequence of the strategy for the South East has given Fletcher Trust, and an apparently compliant Horsham District Council, to propose a massive development of a minimum of 575 houses on Southwater’s countryside. This would be in addition to the 200 plus units already going through the planning process, the bulk of 120 houses being in the Millfield area. Therefore, in total, this would amount to nearly 800 homes, which means another 2000+ people and another 1600 cars headed for Southwater!

At the beginning of this year, Horsham District Council sent out a leaflet to each household listing nine apparent benefits to be reaped by our community by allowing the 575 unit proposal through. This is, in my view, a scandalous piece of propaganda. I have analysed this document point by point and the net result shows not one benefit is indeed promised for certain. A copy of my analysis is available on request by e-mailing blaflin28@aol.com or phoning 01403 730571.

The big eye-catching item, especially for those with children, is the promise of land for a Secondary school in the village.  That is indeed what it says on the tin. Land? Maybe. A school? Almost certainly not. The currently proposed development of 575 homes would not be large enough for the Government to justify funding the building and staffing of a Secondary school just to serve residents of this village. If it was built, it would need to serve a much wider geographic area and pupils would have to be bused in. Imagine that added to the usual rush hour traffic through the village!

The new Government’s Localism Bill is passing through parliament now. The Government’s Plain English Guide to this Bill issued in January this year states in relation to the planning system:

  • ‘Too often, power is exercised by people who are not directly affected by the decisions they are making…’
  • ‘The Secretary of State has already written to Local Authorities to tell them that the Government intends to abolish regional strategies.’
  • ‘Neighbourhood planning will allow people to come together through a local Parish Council to say where they think new houses, businesses and shops should go…’

Many of us lead very busy lives and rarely get involved or are not aware of what’s going on in the locality. However, this issue affects us all and I urge everyone to think and give their views before Southwater village becomes Southwater town as the developers attempt to make millions at our expense by changing and, in my view, destroying our community forever.

NB: this article is historical and provided for background information only.