Calls for the district council’s entire Tory cabinet to resign over a housing ‘debacle’ have been dismissed by the authority’s leader.
Mid Sussex District Council has been told to increase its annual housing target from 800 to 1,026 by a Government-appointed planning inspector.
In response Pam Haigh, chair of the Mid Sussex Labour Party, has called on the district council’s entire cabinet to resign as councillors immediately for ‘failing to serve residents properly on planning’.
But Garry Wall, leader of both the council and the Conservative group, said: “The Labour Party’s response to the planning inspector’s interim housing number is entirely predictable and demonstrates a clear lack of knowledge and understanding of the planning process.
“Their ill-informed suggestion that the council immediately adopts the inspector’s ridiculously high housing number shows how out of touch they are with our local communities, who have worked tirelessly with us in producing an evidence based housing number of 800 homes a year.
“This from a party who, when in Government, imposed an unattainable housing target for Mid Sussex of 17,000 through the now discredited South East Plan and whose leader has again called for the return of top-down regional housing targets. This approach has already been firmly rejected.
“The Conservative administration has worked with local communities; to support neighbourhood planning and ensure growth is sustainable and supported by the correct level of investment in infrastructure.
“Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions. Now is the time for leadership.
“These are interim findings and I will to continue to represent the best interests of residents, adopting the correct level of housing, to meet the needs of Mid Sussex remains our goal.”
A hearing session on housing matters was scheduled for last Friday (March 3), but was postponed by the district council, giving it more time to decide how to move forward.
The decision follows an exchange of terse letters between the planning inspector and the district council over the past fortnight, with inspector Jonathan Bore telling the council its plan did not need to identify every deliverable site, but should simply contain policies and the framework ‘for the housing requirement to be achieved’.
The Mid Sussex Labour Party has laid the blame squarely at the door of the council’s Tory administration who they argued ‘disastrously failed to get the plan approved for a second time’ by not adequately consulting with neighbouring authorities such as Brighton and Crawley, and by not using sufficiently relevant data on housing needs in the district.
A Labour spokesman suggested that without an accepted district plan ‘we cannot prevent housing developers from building virtually wherever they want’.
Ms Haigh said: “Warnings by former councillor Richard Goddard and Parliamentary Candidate Greg Mountain that the council is failing to serve residents properly on planning have been ignored, resulting in what even the council agrees is a disastrous outcome.
“The only resolution is for the council to immediately set land supply figure and meet the inspector’s concerns in an agreed timescale.”
She called on councillors responsible, including the district council’s cabinet to accept responsibility and resign immediately, adding: “It’s obvious they can’t meet their responsibilities, we are all badly let down, it’s time for change, those responsible must go now.”
Last week Cllr Wall described how the council was ‘concerned and bewildered’ that environmental and infrastructure constraints had not been understood by the inspector in his report.
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