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OPINION PIECE

Editor’s letter published in Southwater Life magazine, March 2011.

Southwater Life March 2011By Sally Taylor

This month I’ve decided to use this space to express my personal opinion on the proposals for large-scale development in Southwater. Having already given some careful thought to the issues, I attended the first public consultation exhibition held at Beeson House, studied the plans and asked questions of representatives from Berkeley Homes and HDC Highways Department. And I am still very much against it. 

From what I gather, the package of benefits being presented to us comprises more recreational land and open spaces, walks and ‘countryside enhancement’, a secondary school, and highways improvements.

Now maybe I’m dreaming, but I’m under the impression we live in a village surrounded by fields and countryside, with natural woodlands dotted around nicely, and that we have a fantastic country park with a lake and beach where we can go boating and swimming, the Downs Link for walking and cycling, plus a great range of other recreational facilities, well-equipped play areas, public open spaces, and plenty of unspoilt places for walks. Why would we need countryside enhancement?!

As for the secondary school, I understand that wouldn’t actually be on the cards unless 2,750 new homes are built here, because 500 units alone would not justify it.  And I have major reservations about it anyway. My three teenagers have gained much from attending secondary school outside the village. Having been born and bred in Southwater, they’d each gone all the way through pre-school and primary education with basically the same group of friends. Going to secondary school in Horsham gave them the opportunity to meet and mix with peers from a much wider area and to increase their circle of friends.

So what about the highways improvements? Well, it strikes me they wouldn’t be a necessity if there was no more major development here. As it is, Southwater actually works pretty well considering there is only one major route in and out of the village and the vast majority of our residential, educational, recreational, industrial and business areas are accessible via it alone. Now, keep that point in mind for a moment while you picture the Worthing Road between the Cedar Drive roundabout and Church Lane at 8:45am on a school day. Got that? Good. Then imagine the additional chaos that would ensue if a major new housing estate existed, with access roads practically opposite the two schools. And for the five years while this site is under construction, imagine all those heavy lorries delivering materials day in and day out, and the stream of construction teams’ vehicles and tradesmen’s cars.

Come July, the youngest of my children will leave Southwater Juniors, so the traffic issues there won’t affect me, and the house I live in doesn’t back on to fields, so I can’t be accused of being a nimby. For the record, I’d like to state I’ve absolutely nothing against development, or developers, per se. You see, a considerable part of my working life has been spent intimately involved with the property industry. For some years, I was not only employed by a volume housebuilder but also lived on a large, brand new estate, still under construction. I loved it. I loved seeing the development constantly creeping forward, and pristine new houses rising from the jumble of muddy fields, site agents’ cabins, storage compounds, surveyors clutching theodolites, groundworkers galore, scaffolding lorries, bricklaying gangs, tradesmen’s vans, and the constant parade of delivery trucks and concrete mixers. Okay, perhaps I am a little weird, but seeing new ground being broken and structures created, and experiencing change and progress actually excites me!

Despite that, I would like to preserve the quality of life we currently enjoy. I like Southwater as it is. There is no doubt that businesses based here, my own included, would benefit from the increase in population resulting from 500 more homes being built, let alone 2,750. However, I cannot see any benefit for residents from further large-scale development. What I can foresee is many disadvantages and much disruption to our daily lives, which would span a minimum of five years and quite likely much longer as infrastructure improvements, if they materialise, always lag behind the building of housing stock. Remember, we’ll only need those improvements if many more homes are built.

I moved to Southwater before development was completed around the Cedar Drive loop, before the Blakes Farm Road estate was begun, before Great Lime Kilns was built, and well before the old shopping precinct and industrial estate was knocked down and Lintot Square eventually took its place as the centrepiece of our village. The developers and planners have done an excellent job here, providing us with an aesthetically pleasing built environment with a good balance of attractive homes, public amenities and facilities, open spaces and play areas. All this has been achieved under Option 1 (see Question 3 on the questionnaire form) – it has been so-called unplanned growth, reacting to developers’ planning applications; each new application for development being considered on its individual merit by the planning authority.

In my view, Southwater has much to lose and nothing to gain from accepting large-scale strategic development. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours? Make it known to Horsham District Council. Complete the questionnaire form that came through your door (or vote via the website at www.horshamdistrictldf.info) and ensure it’s returned to HDC before the deadline, which is 4pm, Friday 18th March, 2011.  And please be aware, each member of your household over the age of 5 has a right to vote on this issue.

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