Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 28th September 2015

One of local government’s main responsibilities is planning, be that ruling on individual applications–such as for an extension—or strategically planning how towns and communities will evolve over coming decades.

Planning is one of those issues which can seem boring or irrelevant until it forces you to engage with it. Most people’s first contact with the planning system is when development is proposed in their neighbourhood, unfortunately often too late in the process for anything to be done to stop the application going ahead.

To build the future we all want for Crawley requires us to plan for change well in advance of any actual need arising. It involves a careful balancing act between protecting the aspects of the town we all like against providing the facilities residents are going to need in the future.

Over the last few years, local councils have been undertaking considerable work and consultation to assemble their Local Plans, reviewing all the land in their areas and figuring out how to meet all our requirements using that land between now and 2030. This is a requirement of the planning system and without a plan developers are almost free to build what they want, wherever they want.

This was driven home a few weeks back when an application on the border of Ifield, formally in Horsham District, long opposed by local councils was granted on appeal due to Horsham’s lack of an adopted Local Plan.

Without a Local Plan we can’t decide where housing is best suited nor can we require developers to help pay for the necessary improvements to roads, schools and health facilities to cater to the new demand the housing will create.

Labour took control of Crawley Borough Council following the Conservative authority’s rejection of its own Local Plan, leaving Crawley open to hostile development. Taking control we improved the plan, passed it through council and successfully ran it through the formal consultation and hearing process. Next month we will formally adopt the Local Plan, safeguarding the town from hostile development and showing the leadership necessary to get things done in Crawley.

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