Draft Horsham District Local Plan 2019-2036

Chapter 3 Spatial Vision and Objectives (Key Questions)

Spatial Context

3.1 Horsham District is located in West Sussex, within the South East of England. The district covers an area of 530km2 (205 square miles) and is predominantly rural in character, containing a number of smaller villages and towns.  The largest urban area is the market town of Horsham, situated in the north-east of the District.  95km2 (36.49 square miles) of the District falls within the South Downs National Park.  Although not covered by the policies in this Plan, this nationally important landscape provides a key visual backdrop from locations across the district.

3.2 The District is well connected.  It is close to both central London (around 1 hour by train from Horsham station), and towns on the south coast, including Worthing and Brighton.  There are also connections globally, with Gatwick Airport located on its northern boundary.  Good road and rail links and proximity to nearby ports on the south coast also ensures the area is well connected to the rest of the UK and mainland Europe.  Horsham town is the main urban area in the district, and currently supports a wide range of jobs. Other smaller towns and villages in the district also provide local employment opportunities, and the rural surroundings support a more rural economy.

3.3 Although 60% of the residents of Horsham District live and work within the District, 40% commute beyond the District boundaries.  Many of these people are employed locally in Crawley and Mid Sussex, which together with Horsham District forms part of the wider North West Sussex market area. The labour force in Horsham District is highly educated and contributes to the 45,000 businesses and 500 international businesses within the Gatwick Diamond as a whole.  Central London is also an important employment destination for a number of residents. 

3.4 Horsham District is a very appealing place to live, work and visit. Our towns and villages are very attractive, with many historic buildings. The character of the settlements vary across the District, and each has a unique identity, with different sizes, building types and relationship with the surrounding landscape. There are a range of building materials seen across the District, from tile hanging and flint to the particularly distinctive Horsham stone, which is used as a roofing material in a number of towns and villages.  The historic character and high quality built environment make our villages and towns pleasant places to live and help to attract businesses, including tourism, in both urban and more rural areas. It is therefore important that this high-quality built environment is retained in the future.

3.5 Residents of Horsham District generally comprise a mix of young families and older retired households.  Younger individuals often move away from the District during their twenties and return in their 30s and 40s when they start a family.  However, the cost of housing is high which can make it hard for people to stay or move back to the District.

3.6 The District falls within two main housing market areas - North West Sussex, which also includes Crawley borough and Mid Sussex Districts, and the Sussex coast housing market area. The latter includes the south coast authorities of Worthing, Adur and Brighton and Hove, but extends northwards and includes the south eastern corner of Horsham District.  There are therefore population flows in and out of the District from these two areas, with some smaller population flows between the District and south London boroughs.

3.7 The countryside of the District is very attractive, containing a network of predominantly small fields bounded by thick hedgerows and interspersed by areas of woodland. Together with other districts, these woodland areas combine to make West Sussex one of the most wooded counties in the UK.  Two areas of the District are of particularly high quality; the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Downs National Park, both of which are of national importance.  The District is also home to an abundance of wildlife, some of which is noted for its importance internationally and / or nationally.  Areas which are not designated are still highly valued by local communities and perform important environmental services, such as preventing flooding.  It is recognised that these environments and habitats are under increasing threat from a range of factors, including changing land management practices and increased pressure for development. 

3.8 The high quality nature of the District is backed up by a number of surveys which have repeatedly identified Horsham District as a desirable place to live and work.  The Government's commitment to deliver a step-change in housing delivery will inevitably lead to change within the District, but it is important that the economic strengths and the high quality environment are maintained and enhanced in the future. In addition, our residents and parishes have identified the importance of providing infrastructure to support new development and ensuring there are benefits to existing as well as future communities. 

The vision for the Horsham District Local Plan is therefore: 

“A place where people from all backgrounds can choose to live and work, with access to high quality jobs, services and facilities that are close to home, in a low carbon economy that is in harmony with the natural environment." 

By 2036 Horsham District will have become a place where:



3.9 There is a vibrant economy that recognises both the wider context of the South Downs National Park and the Gatwick Diamond and builds upon the established transport connections, and the market offer within Horsham District. There will be support for retention and growth of existing employment land and communications to provide a diverse, resilient and flexible range of business premises which will provide high quality jobs that match housing growth and offer the opportunity of working close to home. New employment floorspace will include both high quality offices and commercial development.  A range of employment requirements will be catered for, including starter units and larger ‘moving on’ accommodation to nurture and support growth of smaller businesses and retain inward investment.

Horsham Town

3.10 Horsham Town has retained its unique historical and cultural market town character. It is also attracting investment and growing positively with mixed-use development of high quality that enhances the town’s status as a hub for the District for employment and key services.  Horsham town will be the destination of choice in the Northern West Sussex area, with increased accessibility for all, because of the distinctive high quality experience it offers for shopping and leisure time.

Rural Areas 

3.11 The District has retained its rural identity and villages their separate and distinctive characters.  Settlements have been able to accommodate appropriate development for local people and to support the community.


3.12 New housing is delivered, it provides homes which local people can afford and meets the needs of families, young people and older residents alike, that is supported by community facilities and services to create vibrant places and communities.

The Natural Environment and District Character

3.13 The rich heritage and high quality natural environment, and the significant contribution this makes to the overall attractiveness, economic competitiveness and identity of the district is recognised and promoted, developing the close links with the South Downs National Park Authority.  The ecological resources will be enhanced, contributing to the wider nature recovery network and the historical and cultural character of the built environment. Green spaces and the landscape are valued, enhanced, and promoted, ensuring an attractive place for communities, business and welcoming additional visitors. 

Environmental Quality and Climate Change

3.14 The environmental resources and quality of the area have been maintained and enhanced.  There will be a low carbon economy with energy efficient development, including District heating and renewable energy together with new development that has been designed to be low carbon and is flexible to ensure than new technologies can be incorporated as they become available.  Development will be adaptable to the impact of climate change and will mitigate these effects.

Transport Infrastructure

3.15 Opportunities for non-car based transport including walking, cycling and community transport services will be prioritised to help reduce the reliance on private vehicles. The transport infrastructure, especially public transport, is continually improved to offer a high quality, reliable and frequent service and communication facilities are developed to support a sustainable, resilient economy, including opportunities for people to live close to where they work.  Transport networks will be designed with electric vehicles and other changes in technology in mind.

Community Services and Facilities 

3.16 There are inclusive, vibrant communities with a greater quality and range of services and facilities.  There will be significant investment in the leisure offer and community facilities to provide choice for all, thereby sustaining the high quality of life and making Horsham District a destination of choice and promoting health and wellbeing. There will be a focus on healthy communities that provide green spaces alongside opportunities for exercise as part of day to day living, in order to improve general health.


Spatial Objectives

3.17 In order that the vision for Horsham District can be met, the detailed objectives for the plan are as follows:

Objective Themes    
 A Great Place to Live A Thriving Economy Strong, Safe and Healthy Community A cared for Environment
1 Ensure that future development in the District is based on sustainable development principles that strike the correct balance between economic, social and environmental priorities and deliver thriving communities with a strong sense of place.
2 To meet employment needs and create opportunities to foster economic growth and regeneration, providing high-quality jobs that maintain high employment levels in the District and help reduce commuting distances and facilitate and promote innovation in business with support for technological upgrades and change, including full-fibre broadband   
To protect and promote the economic viability and vitality of Horsham town, the smaller market towns and the rural centres and promote development which is appropriate within the existing hierarchy and diversity of settlements in the District, including the appropriate re-use of brownfield land.
To recognise and promote the role of Horsham town as the primary focus for the community and business whilst preserving the unique ambience that contributes to the District’s attractiveness.  The smaller market towns will be recognised as secondary hubs, and encouraged to meet local needs and act as a focus for a range of activities, including employment, retail, leisure and recreation.
5 Provide a range of housing developments across the District that: deliver the target number of new homes; respect the scale of existing places; and deliver a range of housing sizes and types to meet the needs of young people, families and older people and includes the provision of a range of affordable housing.  
6 Brings forward development that is supported by the provision of appropriate infrastructure, accessible community services and open spaces that meet local and wider District requirements.  
7 To safeguard and enhance the character and built heritage of the District’s settlements and ensure that the distinct character of settlements are retained and enhanced and amenity is protected.
8 Identify and preserve the unique landscape character and the contribution that this makes to the setting of rural villages and towns and ensure that new development minimises the impact on the countryside.
9 To safeguard and enhance the environmental quality of the District, ensuring that development brings forward environmental net gains including biodiversity enhancements, and minimises the impact on environmental quality including air, soil, water quality and the risk of flooding.
10 Ensure that new development minimises carbon emissions, adapts to the likely changes in the future climate and promotes the supply of renewable, low carbon and decentralised energy.


  • Do you agree with the spatial context - is there anything else we should add?
  • Do you agree with the Objectives for the new Local Plan?
  • Are there any others which you would suggest?

Strategic Development Principles

3.18 The spatial strategy for the District to 2036 focuses on the positive management of change in accordance with the principles of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).  The strategy seeks to be relevant and unique whilst also meeting the Government’s agenda of delivering a step change in housing growth and our wider Duty to Co-operate requirements.  It also seeks to deliver economic growth, and protect and enhance our high quality environment in a manner which brings forward environmental net gains.  The strategy has to accommodate change but the emphasis is on respecting the distinctive local character wherever possible.  This plan also provides a basis for communities to develop their own, more detailed Neighbourhood Plans where they choose to do so. The key principles for this strategy are illustrated on the Key Diagram below paragraph 3.22, and as set out in further detail below:

Development and Growth

3.19 Horsham District has been recognised as operating at a pivotal point of a triangle of large urban communities between Crawley/Gatwick and Portsmouth and Brighton.  Forming part of the Gatwick Diamond, the District has particularly close links to wider northwest Sussex encompassing both Crawley borough and Mid Sussex District, but there are also linkages to the south coast, particularly in the south eastern corner of the District.  In addition to pressures for growth that are needed to meet the needs of businesses and residents in the Gatwick Diamond area, there may be future pressures for growth which are generated by the growth of Gatwick Airport, and the proximity of the District to the globally important city of London.  These development pressures place a unique challenge to this authority, because our high quality rural character is an economic draw.  This strategy seeks to ensure that the strong identities of Horsham town and our long-established rural communities are retained and the pressure of additional development does not create additional pressures on existing infrastructure and community facilities. There is an expectation that the growth which is delivered will provide for the needs of the community, through a range of development types, sizes and affordability.

Economic Development

3.20 The District has a successful economy with a range of highly skilled workers and general service sector employers.  By recognising what makes the area successful and developing policies that utilise our position in the Gatwick Diamond, this strategy will support existing employers and nurture local businesses to maintain and enhance economic prosperity, but will also seek to ensure that new high quality jobs are provided, with an aspiration to provide one new job for every new home that is constructed.  There is an ageing population, and in the long term, this may increase the number of retired people living in the District.  It is therefore essential that policies encourage people to continue to live and work in the District and maintain the size of our workforce.

3.21 This strategy is mindful of the incentive for growth generated by the Crawley/Gatwick area, which is at the centre of the ‘Gatwick Diamond’, and the potential implications for the northern and eastern parts of the District. Gatwick Airport is one of the main generators of economic growth and there is a continuing emphasis on delivering economic growth in the Gatwick Diamond area.  This includes protecting existing business locations, including Horsham town centre, and having flexible policies that allow future proof developments which incorporate technological improvements such as high-speed broadband. The need to expand local employment provision, enable the enhancement and regeneration of existing sites and provide jobs that shorten the distance travelled to work is also encouraged, which will lower CO2 emissions.

3.22 In addition to supporting economic growth in the Crawley and Gatwick area, there is also a strong rural economy across the District.  It is important that this strategy provides support to rural businesses which allows them to grow and thrive whilst protecting and enhancing the District’s essential character.

Local Plan Key Diagram Basic

Development Hierarchy

3.23 The historic pattern of development in Horsham District has focused on the growth of existing towns and villages.  It is proposed that this strategy seeks to continue to support development that takes place in and adjoining the most sustainable villages and towns of our District, including through the re-use of previously developed land (brownfield land).  These policies seek to give priority to locating new homes, jobs, facilities and services within Horsham town, but also ensure that the investment which has and is taking place in smaller towns and villages, such as Southwater, Billingshurst and Storrington, Steyning and Broadbridge Heath can continue, allowing these settlements to evolve to meet their needs.

3.24 Horsham town is the main cultural, economic and social focus of the District, so development needs to be planned to ensure that it continues to be able to undertake this role.  The strategy recognises the existing settlement pattern and hierarchy which can be used to inform how the appropriate level of growth should be planned. The larger settlements have a role to play and can support development in accordance with their size and role in the settlement hierarchy, as well as acting as hubs for more rural communities.  Medium and smaller towns and villages have the potential to address identified local needs and limited development should be pursued to meet these needs and support rural services and infrastructure.

3.25 It is recognised that some smaller scale hamlets could potentially accommodate a very small-scale level of development to help maintain the longer-term vitality of these locations.  However, a balance needs to be struck between environmental constraints and fundamentally altering local character.  There is a role for local communities to help balance these requirements through the preparation and review of Neighbourhood Plans. 

3.26 In addition to the infill and expansion of existing settlements, the level of growth that is required to meet the national housebuilding aspirations is expected to require the development of new settlements within the District.  Over time, any new settlement which is identified and delivered will become a self-sustaining community with a complete range of jobs, services, schools open spaces and high quality community facilities.

Strategic Sites

3.27 To deliver the step change in houses required by Government to meet our housing needs together with a contribution to the needs of the wider sub region as part of the Duty to Co-operate will require development at large-scale strategic locations.  This will include the ongoing development of the strategic sites at Kilnwood Vale and land to the north of Horsham.  Further potential for strategic development has also been identified in a number of locations across the District and views are sought on these sites as part of this consultation. As part of any development, the necessary infrastructure and community facilities will need to be provided to support new development.

Protection of the District Character and Environmental Net Gain

3.28 The countryside, villages and towns of Horsham District are very attractive and varied in character. The rural, leafy environment and historic villages are a key reason that individuals and businesses choose to locate to the District, and protecting this character will help ensure the health of the economy of the District into the future.  The natural environment also plays a key role in the health of the District's economy.  This includes the provision of ecosystem services such as flood attenuation and the offsetting of climate change, as well as land for food production.  The District also provides ecosystem services for the more urbanised areas in the wider Gatwick Diamond, including Crawley.  It is therefore critical that this strategy ensures that the character of the District is conserved and enhanced, but is also integrated with the need to accommodate change in order to address social or economic objectives and meet the needs of communities. 

3.29 In the long term, it will not be possible to support the economic and housing growth that is required to meet the needs of our children and grandchildren if the environment at local, national and the global scale continues to be degraded.  It is therefore expected that any growth which takes place in Horsham District brings about environmental improvements and actively seeks to contribute to a low carbon economy. This will need to be delivered through high quality design and master-planning which embeds these enhancements into the fabric and layout of the development from the outset. It is also expected that linkages to the wider environment are provided, contributing to a wider nature recovery network.

Delivery Mechanisms

3.30 At this stage, there are a number of uncertainties as to the final level of development which can be accommodated over the plan period.  Further work is ongoing to understand the potential for the housing market to deliver a sustained level of additional housing development over the plan period.  In addition, the level of development which is required will require a range of infrastructure enhancements. This is expected to include the provision of additional schools and health care provision, together with road and public transport enhancements, and new waste water treatment facilities.  These requirements may have the potential to impact on the level of development which can come forward, in the short to medium term in particular.  Work is ongoing to establish what infrastructure requirements are likely to be needed. The feedback from this consultation will contribute to this process.  This will inform our final housing trajectory.  The requirement to review Local Plans on a five yearly basis will ensure that the plan remains up to date and will continue to reflect the identified development needs for our District.