Questions from the Public
To receive questions from the public under Rules 4a.2(f) and 4a.8-18
Mrs Eve Brunt asked the following question:
Serious public concerns have been raised about the road safety aspect of what’s being proposed for the redevelopment of the former Novartis site. Yet your officers say there are no highway safety grounds on which Horsham District Council can refuse what’s being proposed.
They’ve come to this conclusion on the basis of a series of assessments by highway engineers. HDC even commissioned an independent report of their own because they ‘wished to be thorough in relation to highway comments.’ This was because, as you know, West Sussex County Council are the district’s local highways authority - as well as the owners of the land and the applicants.
After a key debate by the planning committee into the scheme was controversially shut down on August 6th - I scoured the planning portal trying to find the actual brief given to Peter Brett Associates - only to find it wasn’t there. It still isn’t.
What was added - on August 12 - after I contacted your principal planning officer to ask why the brief was missing - was a ‘consultation request.’ In this document, PBA set out their own proposal ‘to provide highway and transport comments’ - even offering to ‘reduce the vigour/scope’ of their assessment - if what they were suggesting was too detailed.
It turns out that Peter Brett Associates didn’t even bother to leave their offices 60 miles away to visit the Novartis site before coming to their conclusion that the development would not have a severe impact. No. Their assessment was based on a review of written reports - provided by West Sussex County Council and their own highway assessors, Hampshire County Council. How independent is that?
I have serious doubts, too, about whether crucial Road Safety Audits were carried out to the correct standard.
Can I please ask what assurances you can give that you and your fellow councillors here today have all the necessary information before you upon which to base your decision on the Novartis redevelopment?
Councillor Karen Burgess, the Chairman of Planning Committee (North) replied as follows:
As Chairman of Planning Committee (North), my role is to ensure the meeting is conducted in accordance with the Council’s Constitution, that Members have access to all relevant information, and have an opportunity to comment on the application under consideration. Thus, my main task is to remain impartial and not to influence the members of my own views.
Your query refers to the highway comments received from Peter Brett Associates (PBA). PBA are a leading consultancy working on major development and infrastructure projects. It was decided to consult PBA in order to have an independent highway assessment of the Novartis application. This is in addition to the highway comments received from West Sussex County Council who are the statutory highway authority for this Council.
It is considered that PBA had access to everything they required to be able to give a full and detailed assessment of the scheme.
In their role as independent assessors, PBA have been critical of the submission and have sought further information.
In relation to the road safety audit, West Sussex Highways have confirmed this was undertaken in accordance with the correct guidance.
Highway matters have been covered extensively in the committee report, which also outlines all consultation and resident responses. In addition, all Councillors have been privy to briefings where the scheme has been discussed and questions raised.
Councillors here today will be considering how to proceed with this application.
As a supplementary question, Mrs Brunt asked why a report from Sussex Police on road safety had been ignored.
Councillor Karen Burgess noted the question and advised that a written response would be provided.