Draft Horsham District Local Plan 2019-2036

Chapter 5 Economic Development (Key Questions)

There is a need to build a strong, resilient and diverse economy. The following issues have been identified that will be addressed through the policies in this document:

  • Horsham has an ageing population and house prices are high.  This makes it difficult to retain young people in the District and for businesses to attract skilled employees.
  • There is an ongoing need to enhance the rural economy. This includes enabling diversification of rural employment space and maximising visitor spending through tourism across the District.
  • There is a need to ensure that Horsham District contributes to the role of the Gatwick Diamond.  This includes providing support for development and training opportunities.
  • There is a need to ensure that communications and technologies in the District (e.g. high-speed broadband) are present in order to meet business demands and that they are flexible enough to accommodate technological upgrades over the Plan period.
  • Opportunities for small and medium businesses and business start-ups need to be provided in settlements across the District.
  • There need to be opportunities for existing businesses to grow, expand and change to meet modern business demands (in addition to offices, this important for other uses including manufacturing).
  • New strategic-scale development will need to help provide local employment opportunities for new residents.
  • There is a highly educated workforce in Horsham District.  40% of the working age population commute outside the District to work.  There is a need to provide suitable high quality space for businesses that wish to move into the District: this will help to provide opportunities for residents to live and work locally and reduce commuting distances.
  • Some of the office stock is outdated and is unsuitable for modern business needs. Recent changes to permitted development rights have resulted in a number of often higher-grade offices, particularly in Horsham town centre, being converted to residential uses. The need to retain and expand high quality offices is required.
  • There is a shortage of business floorspace in terms of both the types and sizes needed.
  • Freehold and leasehold employment land in the District is scarce.  Much of the business accommodation stock is low grade and does not meet the requirements of existing businesses, or attract new businesses.
  • There is a lack of high quality employment land in the District.  Much of the business accommodation stock does not meet the requirements of existing businesses or attract new businesses.  This means existing or new businesses who wish to grow or expand cannot find sites in Horsham District and have to look elsewhere.
  • Social changes such as the internet and out of town shopping have the potential to change the role of town and village centres.

Business in Horsham District

5.1 One of the attractions of the District to residents and businesses is its prime location and connectivity: mid-way between London and Brighton, with Gatwick Airport on the doorstep, speedy access to London by rail, the close proximity to all the South East's major ports and airports and the communication links to the rest of the UK.  The majority of Horsham District lies within Gatwick Diamond, which reaches from Croydon in the north, out around Gatwick Airport and down the A23 corridor to the south coast. Residents living in Horsham District contribute to this wider regional economy.  Within Horsham District, the town of Horsham is a key centre for employment and attracts workers from locations both within and beyond the District.  Other settlements, and in particular smaller market towns and villages such as Billingshurst, Southwater and Storrington are also important local employment centres.  At the current time, around 40% of residents commute beyond the District's boundaries. There are particularly close links to destinations within northwest Sussex including Crawley and Gatwick.  Other commuting destinations are London, and for residents in the southern part of the District, the South Coast is also an important employment centre.

5.2 The most common business sector in the District is business and professional services but the rural economy, including agriculture and tourism, is also important outside of the main towns and villages.  Many of the businesses in Horsham District are small in size with most businesses employing between 1 and 4 employees, many of these based in the home.  Larger employers are also present but few businesses in the District employ more than 250 people.  There are also a number of high-tech firms operating in the District, and a number of settlements have industrial estates.  There is also a need to ensure that support is provided for business start-ups and the retention and provision of high quality office space. Communications, including good internet connections, are vital to the health of businesses operating in the District.  Work is ongoing to ensure that full-fibre broadband and other technological upgrades are provided to ensure businesses can continue to grow and develop in the future.

5.3 Since 2015, progress has been made in bringing forward sites for employment growth and investment.  Planning permission for employment land has been granted on Land north of Horsham, at Brinsbury College between Billingshurst and Pulborough, at locations adjoining Billingshurst and at Nowhurst, near Broadbridge Heath. It will be important to ensure that sufficient additional employment land can be provided alongside new housing growth and ensure that new residents have opportunities to live and work locally.  These are set out in the table below. 


Site Name


Land at North Horsham Strategic Allocation

46,450 square metres

B1 (Grade A office space), complementary flexible commercial / community space

Former Novartis site, Horsham

25,000 square metres

B1 (Grade A office space)

Nowhurst Business Park

25,200 square metres

Flexible use (B1c/B2/B8)

Land at Brinsbury College

16,850 square metres

Flexible use (B1/B2/B8)

Land north of Hilland Farm, Billingshurst

19,000 square metres

Flexible use (B1c/B2/B8) Petrol Filling Station with ancillary services

Land southwest of Platts roundabout, Billingshurst

4,625 square metres

Flexible (B1b/B1c/B2/B8) Petrol Filling Station with ancillary services


Education and Skills

5.4 Unemployment levels are lower than for the South East or nationally, which is a consistent trend for this District.  The residents of the District are educated to a high level with at least half of the workforce educated to degree level or above.  GCSE or A Level results from schools and colleges are also excellent.  The local state and private schools have a good reputation, making this an attractive place to live and relocate to do business.

5.5 There is some provision for further education in the District, including Collyers, Central Sussex College, Horsham Training Centre and the Brinsbury Campus of Chichester College.  Current opportunities for higher education are more limited, with the nearest universities located in Brighton, Chichester and Guildford.  Local Authorities and businesses in the Gatwick Diamond area have recognised that there is a need for additional higher education and training opportunities in the area to ensure that the workforce remains trained to a high level in the future.

Strategic Policy 6 - Economic Growth

5.6 This policy is seeking to achieve sustainable economic growth for Horsham District to 2036.  For the purposes of this policy ‘employment’ means office, industrial, storage and distribution uses which fall within B1, B2 and B8 Use Classes.  Other uses that provide jobs are termed ‘employment generating uses’ and also form an important part of economic growth, but are covered in greater detail in other policies in this document.

5.7 Horsham District falls within the North West Sussex Functional Economic Market Area, which comprises the districts of Horsham and Mid Sussex and the borough of Crawley.  The commercial property market in the North West Sussex area is relatively self-contained, boosted by its position within the Gatwick Diamond and the wider South East, and access to a range of transport links.  Alongside existing businesses, the area does attract some additional demand from a range of business and investors.  Overall, it is perceived as a strong industrial location, although several recent proposals for new space within Horsham District have sought flexibility between industrial and distribution uses (flexible B1c/B2/B8 use).  Within the district of Horsham, the office market is strongest in Horsham Town and near Crawley.  However, like elsewhere, it has been affected by structural changes in the way that businesses operate, such as increasingly flexible working practices and consolidation of formal space.  The office market has also been affected by national policy interventions, such as the introduction in 2013 of office to residential permitted development rights.  The provision of high quality office floorspace at the former Novartis site and in North Horsham, which this policy seeks to secure, will therefore be important to help satisfy this demand. 

5.8 The Economic Growth Assessment 2019 indicates current employment commitments (such as existing allocations and planning permissions) broadly match the employment needs generated by a population growth derived from the housing requirements based on the Government’s Standard Method (965 dwellings per annum).  However, should the District seek to meet some of the unmet housing needs of neighbouring local planning authorities, then intensification of existing sites and / or additional employment land will be required to meet the future needs in the District over the plan period.  In addition, it is recognised that current business sites are not always fit for purpose and that relocation or redevelopment may be required to ensure that existing businesses in the District can continue to thrive.  In order to address this and to enable sustainable economic growth, it is important to ensure sufficient supply and choice in employment floorspace across the District, both within the urban areas and rural areas.

5.9 This policy seeks to address the office floorspace requirement by providing additional, high quality employment floorspace within the District, to help support local employment opportunities close to where people live. It also seeks to ensure that existing Key Employment Areas as shown on the policies map are retained for employment uses and enable the redevelopment, regeneration, intensification and smart-growth of existing sites.

5.10 The policy also recognises the important role and contribution that the smaller businesses, including home-based businesses, home working, and also employment-generating uses such as tourism, retail and leisure, make towards the District’s economy.  It seeks to support them by providing suitable accommodation and encouraging appropriate infrastructure to be provided through development.  The policy recognises that the majority of the settlements in the District are villages where the majority of the premises within defined centres are under 200sqm.  There is a need to ensure future economic development within rural areas, such as proposals relating to garden centres or ancillary retail uses, do not undermine the vitality, vibrancy and / or viability of these centres.

Strategic Policy 6 - Economic Growth

Sustainable economic growth, including support for existing businesses for the period up to 2036, will be achieved through the provision of sufficient employment land to meet the Council's identified requirements for use classes B1, B2 and B8.  This will be achieved through:

  1. The allocation of sufficient sites from land identified in the table below for employment.  The provision will be expected to be well-designed, suitable for incorporating a range of unit sizes and flexibility in use with appropriate regard to floor to ceiling heights, floor loading, power, servicing and loading facilities;
  2. Within Horsham Town, particularly within or near the centre and train station, office development (Use Classes B1a and B1b) will be permitted where this adds to the overall stock of Grade A offices and subject to the submission of evidence demonstrating any adverse impacts would not significantly outweigh the benefits;
  3. Retention, redevelopment, regeneration, intensification and smart-growth of existing employment sites in accordance with Strategic Policy 7 - Employment Development;
  4. Taking a positive approach to the formation of small start-up businesses, home-working and home-based businesses, and proposals that seek the retention of existing businesses within the District;
  5. Requiring major developments to provide appropriate ICT infrastructure, such as high-speed broadband and full fibre, as an integral part of all forms of development, to provide businesses with the flexibility to operate anywhere;
  6. Requiring proposals to maintain and enhance the attractiveness of the District to ensure it is an attractive place to stay and visit, to increase the value of all economies, including tourism, retail and leisure; 
  7. Encouraging sustainable local economic growth through Neighbourhood Development Plans; and,
  8. Encouraging the expansion of higher education facilities related to research and development and employment training activity.

Employment Site Allocations

Site Name

Indicative employment floorspace sqm

(Use Classes B1/B2/B8)

Strategic Allocations

It will be necessary for any strategic allocations of 800 homes or more to provide opportunities for employment and for people to live and work locally.  All strategic site allocations must demonstrate how provision for one job (all Use Classes) for each new dwelling will be provided for within the site, through evidenced means such as home working, retail and community employment, and general B1/B2/B8 employment opportunities.

Land at Lower Broadbridge Farm, Broadbridge Heath

3.7ha site suitable for B1, B2 and B8 uses. 

Land South of Star Road Industrial Estate, Partridge Green

3.9ha suitable for B1, B2 and B8 uses. This site could come forward as a standalone extension to Star Road industrial estate. There may also be potential, subject to landowner agreement, for the relocation of sites on the Huffwood Estate, which could then be redeveloped for housing.

Land Around Mercer Road, Warnham Station (North)

Around 3ha may have potential for expansion of the employment land to the north.  The site is suitable for B1, B2 and B8 uses. 

Graylands Estate, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham

4.4ha - The current site is in employment use. There is potential for expansion of this site to the east and the west of the existing uses, taking into account the proximity of the allocation of Land to the North of Horsham.  

Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham

This is an existing site of around 6.5ha. There is potential for expansion and intensification of the uses on this site.


Rosier Commercial Centre

6.0ha This is a large existing commercial estate, which adjoins land that is proposed for strategic scale housing growth to the east of Billingshurst. There is potential for expansion and intensification within the existing site boundary. There may also be some potential for the expansion of this site for B1, B2 and B8 uses. 

Land at Broomers Hill Business Park, Pulborough

3.0ha There is potential for land to the south of the existing employment site to be expanded for B1, B2 and B8 uses and to support employment development in the southern part of Horsham District.

North and south of Buck Barn Petrol Filling Station

A total of 5.5ha of land has been identified north and south of the A272 that may have potential for B1, B2 and B8 uses. Access to the site may be difficult to achieve as a standalone development due to the existing traffic flows around the Buck Barn crossroads.  Land at Buck Barn to the west has been proposed as a strategic housing allocation; should this site be allocated, the potential of this land to provide supporting business uses should be considered.

Land South of Hilliers Garden Centre

4.7ha - This site has a relationship with the existing commercial activities to the north.  There is considered to be some potential for B1, B2 and B8 uses in this location. 

Land South West of Hop Oast Roundabout

1ha - The site is located just outside the built up area of Southwater and lies adjacent the Major Road Network. It is enclosed by the A24 and the main road into the north of Southwater. It is therefore considered to have potential for B1, B2 and B8 uses in this location.

Strategic Policy 7 - Employment Development

5.11 This policy seeks to balance the need to ensure protection of valued employment and commercial sites and to ensure there are sufficient local employment opportunities to meet the needs of the District, whilst enabling sites that are no longer economically viable to be considered for other appropriate uses.  For the purposes of this policy, ‘employment’ means office, industrial, storage and distribution uses that fall within B1, B2 and B8 Use Classes.  Other uses that provide jobs are termed ‘employment generating uses’ and are similar to 'employment' uses and are also considered under this policy. 

5.12 It is important that existing employment sites in the District be retained, to ensure that there continue to be opportunities for people to live and work locally.  This policy protects identified Key Employment Areas, which are identified on the Policies Map, for employment and follows a review of existing employment locations to ensure that a range of employment sites remain available across the District.  It is also recognised that trade counters can play an important role in employment areas.  However, this policy seeks to ensure that that trade counters do not undermine the employment uses.  

5.13 This policy also seeks to ensure that there is flexibility in accommodating business needs in terms of commercial floorspace and allows for the development of small businesses that are playing an increasingly important part in creating a sustainable local economy, including through the expansion of existing sites.  It is considered that this will assist businesses who cannot meet their current requirements within the existing stock, and will also help to support small and start-up units, as well as providing opportunities for businesses to move on to larger premises in the District as they grow.

Policy 7 - Strategic Policy: Employment Development

Proposals for the upgrading and refurbishment of existing offices, industrial/business estates, premises and sites, that enable them to meet modern business standards and enhance the attractiveness of the District as a business location and appropriately resolve any issues arising from badly sited uses will be supported.  In order to maintain and help meet the employment needs of the District up to 2036, the provision of employment premises and sites will be safeguarded, including office space in Horsham town centre and sites where employment development has been permitted but not yet commenced.   This will be achieved through the following:

 Key Employment Areas:

  1. Key Employment Areas, as listed in the table below, will be protected for business, manufacturing, storage and distribution uses (B1, B2 and B8 Use Classes).  Redevelopment in the Key Employment Areas must not result in the overall loss of employment floorspace unless it can be demonstrated that the loss is not significant, and would lead to a significant upgrade of the retained employment floorspace;
  2. Proposals for alternative sui generis ‘employment’ uses within the Key Employment Areas, such as waste management facilities, will be supported where it can be demonstrated the proposal supports the integrity and function of the Key Employment Area and does not prejudice the operation of its employment uses; and,
  3. Proposals seeking trade counters must demonstrate they are ancillary to an employment use and will not prejudice the operation of the wider employment area.

Other Existing Employment Sites:

  1. Employment sites and premises outside Key Employment Areas will be protected for business, manufacturing, storage and distribution uses (B1, B2 and B8 Use Classes) and sui generis uses appropriate to the existing employment provision and location;
  2. Proposals for ancillary trade counters and indoor leisure uses (D2 Use Class) may be supported where it can be demonstrated it will not prejudice the operation of surrounding employment uses; and
  3. Proposals for other uses must demonstrate that both the premises and site are no longer needed and are no longer viable for employment use.  The assessment of these will have regard to:
    1. Vacancy, including the reasons for vacancy and the length of time vacant,
    2. Evidence of active marketing that reflects the condition and local economic market within the terms of sale and, where applicable, rent.  Active marketing will be expected to cover a period of at least a year with written confirmation from the commercial agent(s) regarding the redundancy and lack of viability of both the premises and site for employment.

All Existing Employment Sites:

  1. The expansion of existing employment premises and sites will be supported where the expansion is in keeping with the existing scale of provision and local area, and where it can be demonstrated that any adverse impacts would not significantly outweigh the benefits.

New Employment Sites:

  1. New employment sites for B1, B2 and/or B8 use will be permitted in accordance with the spatial strategy for the District and the settlement hierarchy, and all other policies in the Development Plan as appropriate.


 Key Employment Areas

Site Name

Huffwood & Eagle Trading Estates, Brookers Road, Billingshurst 

Daux Road Industrial Estate, Billingshurst

Gillmans Industrial Estate, Natts Lane, Billingshurst

Lawson Hunt Industrial Park, Broadbridge Heath

Mackley Industrial Estate, Small Dole

Blatchford Road, Horsham

Foundry Lane, Horsham

Nightingale Road, Horsham

Station Approach, Pulborough

Oakhurst Business Park, Wilberforce Way, Southwater

Water Lane Trading Estate, Storrington

Huffwood Trading Estate, and Star Road Partridge Green

Wiston Business Park, London Road, Ashington

Henfield Business Park, Shoreham Road, Henfield

Graylands Estate, Langhurstwood Road, Horsham

North Heath Lane Industrial Estate, North Heath Lane, Horsham

Parsonage Business Park, Parsonage Way, Horsham

Spring Copse Business Park, Slinfold

The Business Park, Maydwell, Slinfold

Southwater Business Park, Worthing Road, Southwater

Rock Business Park, The Hollow, Washington

Rosier Commercial Centre

Broadlands Business Campus

Oakendene Industrial Estate, Cowfold


Policy 8 - Rural Economic Development

5.14 Horsham District has a diverse urban and rural economy.  It is predominantly rural in character.  The main market town of Horsham is supported by a network of settlements and small villages in rural surroundings.

5.15 The rural character of the District means that the wider rural economy is important. This includes the economies of smaller villages and towns, agricultural and other land- based businesses, as well as tourism and leisure developments.

5.16 Over half of the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK are home-based and in our District, many of these businesses are in rural areas, providing the only employment in villages and hamlets.  We need to retain this valued employment by affording these businesses the opportunity to expand near their home.

5.17 Maintaining the rural economy through appropriate development will be considered positively where it can be shown to support the meeting of rural community needs, and enabling the rural towns and villages in the District to remain self-sufficient and economically vibrant.

5.18 There is an ongoing need to maintain and enhance the rural economy. This includes diversification of rural employment space and maximising visitor spending through tourism across the District.  The diversification of the use of farm buildings for communities and rural businesses will play a role in allowing local economies to continue to grow, expand, and change to meet modern demands.  This diversification allows for the positive reuse of buildings, along with the sustainable use of resources, which has less impact on the rural landscape.

5.19 Neighbourhood Planning may also play an important role in identifying and promoting sustainable economic growth at the local level.

Policy 8 - Rural Economic Development

 Sustainable rural economic development and enterprise within the District will be encouraged in order to generate local employment opportunities and economic social and environmental benefits for local communities.

Outside built-up area boundaries or secondary settlements, development, which maintains the quality and character of the area whilst sustaining its varied and productive social and economic activity, will be supported in principle.  Any development should be appropriate to the countryside location and must contribute to the diverse and sustainable farming enterprises within the District. In the case of other countryside-based enterprises and activities, development must contribute to the wider rural economy and/or promote recreation in, and the enjoyment of, the countryside, and either:

  1.  Be contained wherever possible within suitably located buildings which are appropriate for conversion or, in the case of an established rural industrial or commercial site, within the existing boundaries of the site; or
  2. For new buildings or development in the rural area, proposals will be supported where it can be demonstrated that criterion (1) has been considered first, and that the proposal will contribute to sustainable rural economic growth that supports balanced living and working communities.

.Any proposal must demonstrate that it will not adversely affect the character, appearance or visual amenities and the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside of the wider area. Measures that will enhance biodiversity in and around the site will be supported.

Proposals must demonstrate that car parking requirements can be accommodated satisfactorily within the immediate surroundings of the buildings or an alternative logical solution is proposed.

Policy 9 - Conversion of Agricultural and Rural Buildings to Commercial, Community and Residential Uses

5.20 Horsham District has a rural character, with a large number of farmsteads and other rural activities such as equestrian businesses.  The stock of buildings which are suitable for conversion to other uses has fallen over time, but there will still be instances where proposals for the conversion of rural buildings come forward.

5.21 Given that the proposals for development will be in the rural areas of the District, it is expected that development may be 'isolated' to some extent, in that there will be a reliance on the private car to reach most services and facilities.  It is therefore considered that any such proposals should be easily accessible by road.  The local isolation of the development will also need to be considered.  Buildings within an existing complex are, for example, less likely to have an adverse impact on the character of the surrounding landscape.

5.22 Given the rural location of these sites, applicants would need to be mindful of the potential impact of any proposal on biodiversity.  Rural buildings may, for example, contain bat roosts or nest habitats for protected species such as barn owls.  Applicants should therefore be aware that it might be necessary to undertake an ecological investigation and implement suitable mitigation as well as biodiversity enhancements in accordance with the Council's biodiversity policies.

Policy 9 - Conversion of Agricultural and Rural Buildings to Commercial, Community or Residential Uses

Outside defined built-up areas and secondary settlements, conversion of agricultural, forestry or other rural buildings to commercial, community or up to 5 residential units, will be supported where the following criteria are met:

  1. The proposals would not adversely affect the character, appearance or visual amenities and the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside of the wider area. Measures that will enhance biodiversity in and around the site will be supported.
  2. The proposed conversion is acceptable in its setting by virtue of its siting, form, scale and existing architectural merit, and it can be demonstrated it would lead to an enhancement of the immediate setting through the architecture, landscape design and materials;
  3. It can be demonstrated that every reasonable attempt has been made to secure a commercial use of the building in the first instance via active marketing for a minimum period of 12 months. Active marketing will be expected to cover a period of at least a year with written confirmation from the commercial agent(s) regarding the redundancy and lack of viability of both the premises and site for commercial use;
  4. The site is served by an existing metalled road or other suitable access to the local road network;
  5. The existing building is not so derelict as to require substantial reconstruction;
  6. The buildings have been in use for commercial purposes for at least 10 years and the current use can be proven to be no longer necessary, or would otherwise secure the future of an existing heritage asset;
  7. Community uses will be considered favourably where it can be demonstrated that they will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities.



Policy 10 - Equestrian Development

5.23 Equestrian-related development is important to the rural economy of the District. Development of this nature needs to be of high quality and appropriate to its location, particularly in designated areas such as the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Policy 10 - Equestrian Development

Equestrian-related development will be supported provided that:

  1. The proposal would be appropriate in scale and level of activity, and be in keeping with its location and surroundings, and where possible is well related to existing buildings;
  2. It can be demonstrated that the re-use of existing buildings on sites for related equestrian use is not appropriate before new or replacement buildings are considered;
  3. The proposal should, where possible, be well related to a bridleway network.

Strategic Policy 11 - Tourism Facilities and Visitor Accommodation

5.24 Tourism is an important source of local employment and promoting the tourism offer of the District is one of five priorities set out in the Horsham District Economic Strategy 2017-2027.  The Council's “Visitor Economy Strategy” (2018-2023) highlights that the visitor economy accounts for 6.1% of all jobs in the district and, if Horsham District follows national predictions, could be set to grow by 3.8% per annum by 2025.  In 2015 there were a total of 3.1 million day and overnight trips to the District, generating an estimated total spend of £178.4 million. Whilst this demonstrates the importance of the visitor economy to the District, the performance of this sector could be stronger, particularly when compared to regional and national growth.

5.25 The District has a rich and diverse offer of cultural and leisure activities.  We have invested in and residents benefit from good quality cultural assets.  Horsham town is the focus for cultural facilities such as the Capitol Theatre and Horsham Museum. There are also main town centre leisure activities such as a cinema, bowling, sports facilities and hotels.  The rural area has strategic scale facilities such as Southwater Country Park and the Downs Link, a recreation route that passes through the District linking Guildford and Shoreham-by-Sea.  The South Downs National Park adjoins many of the settlements in the south of the District that have the potential to benefit from the visitor economy in this area.

5.26 Tourism plays a big role in our economy and the District has some fantastic tourism businesses.  We are keen to maximise the potential of the visitor economy, most crucially by encouraging more overnight trips. The District needs more accommodation, but this needs to be linked to the distinctive offer of the District, capitalising on the local gastronomy, the traditional English landscapes, the vibrant market towns and villages, lively festivals and farmers' markets, the District's heritage assets and ease of access to the South Downs National Park and the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The “Horsham District Hotel & Visitor Accommodation Study” (2016) presents key findings on the specific type of accommodation that is required in the District.  This document or any subsequent update can help to inform decision-making on applications for tourist accommodation.

5.27 The promotion of tourism often provides the means of conserving the heritage and enriching the quality of life.  There are opportunities to improve the tourism 'product' of the District through appropriate management and promotional initiatives; it will also be important to encourage the retention of existing facilities and new development which meets the objective of facilitating sustainable tourism and economic growth within the District.

5.28 We will aim to take a proactive stance to encourage local tourism within the District. Within this overall philosophy, the approach towards encouraging tourism will vary across the District according to the characteristics of the local area. The emphasis is on:

  • supporting high-quality tourism facilities and visitor accommodation that enhance the visitor economy with sensitively designed development that minimises any adverse impacts on individual settlement characteristics, landscape character and the environment;
  • supporting appropriate facilities in towns and villages in the District and maximising the potential of settlements in the southern part of the District to benefit from their proximity to the South Downs National Park; and
  • supporting facilities that are in keeping with and complement the rural hinterland that surround Horsham town and other settlements.

5.29 In the rural areas we will support initiatives that seek to develop the tourism opportunities associated with rural diversification, including recreation-based farm diversification, if they are of a scale and type appropriate to their location.

Strategic Policy 11 - Tourism Facilities and Visitor Accommodation

Proposals which enhance the visitor economy through the redevelopment of an existing site, or the provision of new facilities for visitor accommodation and/or tourism facilities will be supported where it can be demonstrated that proposals:

  1. Reinforce the local distinctiveness, and demonstrate how the District's tourist offer will be improved or enhanced.  This may include the retention of heritage assets within the District, including the return of a historic property to active use;
  2. Contribute to the retention and enhancement of existing facilities;
  3. Increase accessibility to the District's tourist facilities and/or visitor accommodation through sustainable modes of travel;
  4. Relate well to their surroundings and are sensitively designed to avoid harm to the townscape or landscape character and the wider environment

Outside defined settlement boundaries, proposals should also:

  1. Seek to re-use existing buildings in the first instance.
  2. Develop the opportunities associated with rural diversification and rural development initiatives, particularly where they assist farm diversification projects, benefit the local economy, or enable the retention of buildings contributing to the character of the countryside.

Proposals that result in the loss of visitor accommodation, visitor attractions or cultural facilities in the District will be resisted unless evidence of marketing with a reputable specialist agent at a realistic price that reflects the value of the business is provided. Evidence of the non-viability of the existing business will also be required.



The following issues have been identified and are addressed through the policies in this strategy.

  • Independent retailers, markets, cafes and restaurants are distinctive features in Horsham, which will be supported.
  • Uses that fall outside traditional retail use classes, such as dentists or leisure uses, can potentially help to attract a wider range of people and contribute to the health of a centre.
  • Shopping habits are changing with increased reliance on online retail. This is placing pressures on all retail centres across the District.
  • The Conservation Area, pedestrianisation, markets, outdoor events and entertainment, cultural facilities and Horsham Park all contribute to the ambience and visitor experience in Horsham Town. These matters all need to be taken into account when considering development of Horsham town centre.
  • Areas of Horsham town centre such as East Street, Market Square and Piries Place, together with the arrival of key stores such as John Lewis have added to the vibrancy and success of the town. There is a need to continue to build on this success.
  • Horsham Town is the main retail centre in the District.  It serves as a hub for many other settlements in the District and is a destination of shopping choice for some other parts of West Sussex and Surrey.
  • Residential uses in the town centres can add to their vitality but the potential for conflict between residential requirements and lively town centre activities will need to be considered.


5.30 Retail plays a key role in the wider economy of Horsham District: 10% of employment in the District is in the sector.  As well as offering employment opportunities to local people, retail and other main town centre uses provide goods and services to residents and other businesses in the District.  Town and village centres provide an important function in contributing to well connected, sustainable and healthy communities.  They provide spaces for interaction and collaboration, and meet a broad range of needs for both residents and visitors. 

5.31 The Horsham Town Retail and Leisure Study (2017), and other studies indicate that Horsham town centre is generally functioning well, with capacity for some additional retail development.  Redevelopment at the Bishopric and Piries Place have helped to increase the scale, range and diversity of the offer within the town.  Their focus extends beyond retail, including leisure and recreation provision and contributing to the visitor economy.

5.32 Successful town and village centres must seek to provide an enhanced range of services, attractions and facilities in order to increase the time people want to spend in these spaces.  Horsham town centre is an attractive and welcoming centre with a robust presence, which performs well in the current economic climate and has strong prospects for maintaining and enhancing its competitive position in the sub-region.  The reports outlined above identify a number of positive features of Horsham town centre including a high number of independent retailers, cafés and restaurants and an attractive historic environment.  In conjunction with stakeholders, and through collaboration and active measures such as town centre management, the role of the centre servicing Horsham District will be reinforced.  Some smaller centres throughout the District have capacity for enhancement and broadening of their offer.

5.33 The role of both residential and employment (particularly B1) uses in supporting the vitality and buoyancy of town and village centres is acknowledged.  It is vital that a balance which allows retail and leisure uses to flourish alongside these other uses is achieved.  No one element of the District's centres should negatively impact the success and viability of another.

5.34 The continued promotion of a “Town Centres First” strategy will help to support the economic health of our town and village centres and the longer term interests of customers and other town centre users.  In smaller towns and villages, maintaining a retail offer may present a greater challenge, given the requirement on both large and small retailers to ensure physical outlets remain commercial and competitive, whilst reflecting changes in the nature of demand and the pattern of supply in the delivery of local goods and services (e.g. the increased role of online shopping).

5.35 The role that residential uses play in improving the vitality of retail centres is acknowledged, as is the importance of a strong non-retail employment presence (such as offices). However, there is a need to balance the potential for any conflict between these uses.

5.36 These policies seek to improve the vitality and viability of the existing centres in the District so they are best able to meet the needs of communities. It is also recognised that centres created through new development will play an important role in meeting communities' needs.

Strategic Policy 12 - Retail Hierarchy and Sequential Approach

5.37 This policy establishes a hierarchy of retail centres in the district with the intention of directing uses and activities that enhance their attractiveness as places to visit, and support their economic health, towards these centres. 

5.38 Horsham town centre is the District's primary centre and is the retail, commercial and civic heart of the District as well as a sub-regional destination.  Positive measures which enhance Horsham town centre as the primary centre are encouraged. The District's other retail centres will be supported and enhanced through a number of positive and promotional measures that seek to support the centres.

5.39 It is recognised that the role of town and village centres is changing and that in future town centre uses may be more varied, but should still maintain a high level of retail use.  It is also important that development proposals within the District's retail centres respect and promote the unique historic character of the centres, which provide their setting. 

5.40 Proposals for town centre uses will be assessed according to the hierarchy set out under Policy 12. In all instances, Town Centre uses will normally be expected to be located within the defined town centre boundaries. Exceptions to this policy may be acceptable, where it can be demonstrated that specific objectives would be met and where opportunities would be seized for enhanced retailing and wider community benefits.  Applications for retail development outside of centres will be required to include a retail impact assessment where the total retail floorspace of the scheme would be 500m2 or more, as justified within the evidence base. 

5.41 In order to meet these objectives, planning conditions and agreements may be used to ensure that Town Centre First principles are maintained.

Strategic Policy 12: Retail Hierarchy and Town Centre First principles

Retail Centre Hierarchy

  1. Development proposals within existing retail centres will be supported where they promote or protect the following hierarchy:
Primary Centre Horsham Town
Secondary Centres Billingshurst
Local Centres Smaller villages and local shops


  1. The Council will seek to protect and enhance the character and diversity of existing retail centres. Development proposals will be supported where they can demonstrate that they will benefit the vitality and viability of the centre and contribute to a diverse range of suitable town centre uses which generate footfall, including retail, leisure, entertainment, recreation, arts, culture, business or commercial uses.

Town Centre First

  1. Proposals for town centre uses, including new retail stores, superstores, extensions to existing retail units, recreation, leisure and entertainment uses will be expected to be located within the main shopping area as defined on the proposals map and at a scale appropriate to the settlement hierarchy. Where this is demonstrated not to be a viable approach, proposals should be located within the defined town or village centre boundary.
  2. Broadbridge Heath Quadrant (Policy 5) is recognised as the only out-of-centre location where main town centre uses will be considered acceptable, subject to meeting other policy requirements and providing the uses enhance the District's retail offer and meet wider community requirements.

Local Threshold for Retail Impact Assessments

  1. Planning applications for edge or out-of-centre retail development schemes of 500m2 or more must undertake a full and detailed impact assessment which demonstrates that they will not have a significant adverse impact on local retail centres, either on their own or cumulatively.


Strategic Policy 13 - Town Centre Uses

5.42 The District's town and village centres are essential as the focus for community life, providing a range of uses and services for everyday domestic and other needs in an accessible and convenient form, usable by a wide cross-section of the community and underpinning the attractiveness and historic character, which the community cherishes.

5.43 Retail has been the traditional core function of town and village centres.  All centres are facing challenges around their future role, together with concerns over viability with emerging retail trends, patterns of economic prosperity and rationalisation of service distribution.  This policy therefore supports the Town Centre First approach and the need for adjustment, diversification and innovation in the range of uses in town and village centres.

5.44 The policy supports the ongoing vitality and viability of centres across the District by:

  • supporting flexibility, diversity and dynamism in town and village centres,
  • encouraging a balance of uses which increase daytime footfall and/or promote the evening economy of the town where appropriate,
  • safeguarding their retail functions, acknowledging that centres must retain a strong retail offer,
  • managing the change of use of units where appropriate, 
  • encouraging appropriate, accessible and well-connected development.

5.45 Main town centre uses are those, which are retail based, or may be naturally associated with a town centre as the focus of a community or number of adjacent communities.  These uses may relate to leisure and recreation, such as restaurants, coffee shops, bars and pubs, hotels, or clinics or health and fitness centres.

5.46 The policy recognises the value of non-A class uses, such as D1 or D2, and the importance of balancing a strong retail core with flexibility around uses which will promote footfall and increase dwell time.

5.47 A proposal for a main town centre use (as defined in the glossary of this document) will be assessed according to a test where town centre uses will be expected to be located within the defined centre boundaries and preferably within the main shopping areas.  Where suitable sites are not available to meet an identified need and this cannot be resolved by flexibility in terms of format and scale and other issues such as car parking, proposals will be expected to locate on suitable sites adjacent to the town centre, which are easily accessible and where they can be well served by public transport.

5.48 Out of centre sites will not normally be considered suitable for town centre uses. 

Policy 13 - Strategic Policy: Town Centre Uses

  1. Main town centre uses will be encouraged within defined town and village centres. Main shopping areas and primary retail frontages have been defined for Horsham town and larger village centres and are defined on the Proposals Map.
  2. Proposals for main town centre uses will be supported within the defined town and village centre boundaries, providing they are of an appropriate scale to the centre and maintain or improve the character, quality, function and vitality of the centre as a whole. Proposals must relate well to, and be well connected with, defined primary frontages and main shopping areas where these exist.

Changes of Use

  1. Proposals for the loss of A1 uses at ground-floor level in primary frontages, or the creation of floorspace at ground-floor level not intended for A1 use will be supported providing that:
    1. The proposal remains as an A2 or A3 use,
    2. There will be no harmful impact on the vitality and viability of the centre.
    3. Active frontages will be retained
  2. Where an A3, A4 or A5 use is proposed, applications must be accompanied by a statement giving full details of means of control of emission of fumes, storage and disposal of refuse and means of insulation.
  3. Changes of use to A5 will be required to demonstrate adequate parking nearby in order to ensure delivery and collection vehicles do not cause disruption or harm the amenity of residences or businesses located nearby. 
  4. Non-A Class uses will be supported where it can be demonstrated that the proposal will support or enhance the vitality and viability of the centre and provide a balance of uses which increase daytime footfall and/or promote the evening economy of the town and that active frontages will be retained.

Marketing of Property for Change of Use

  1. Where the loss of a main town centre use is proposed in Primary Frontages evidence must be submitted which demonstrates the property has been continually, actively and effectively marketed for at least 12 months at an appropriate rent (based on three comparable shop rents within the same centre) to establish the use is no longer of commercial interest.

Small Scale development

  1. Proposals for small-scale retail development or extensions to existing village shops and retail units, outside the defined town and village centre boundaries, will be allowed where it will not significantly undermine the vitality and viability of the nearest defined retail frontage or town and village centre.
  2. The Council will favour change of use of A1 to other A class uses over change of use to residential in the first instance and A5 will only be appropriate where it does not lead to an over concentration of this use. Proposals for other A Class uses and proposals for residential must demonstrate that the retail unit is no longer viable.
  • Do you agree with the draft policies in this section?
  • If not, what changes would you suggest?