Draft Horsham District Local Plan 2019-2036

Chapter 8 Development Quality, Design and Heritage (Key Questions)

  • Horsham District has a mostly rural character, containing a network of villages and towns, each with their own character. Development proposals will need to consider how this character can be maintained and where possible enhanced.
  • In order to maintain the District’s high quality of life for existing and future residents, development will need to be designed to ensure that it is of a high quality.
  • The District's rich and diverse cultural heritage and archaeology contributes to the sense of place and character. These are not always protected by national designations, but in combination they have a high local value.
  • Any proposals for development should consider the impact on the District’s history and heritage
  • The District has a number of significant heritage assets which need to be conserved in order for future generations to enjoy them.


8.1 The District has a rich history with Saxon estates and medieval villages. Horsham became a market borough in the 14th Century. The north of the District grew through the development of the Wealden iron industry and the south grew through the wood trade. There was a 'boom' period for the District during the 15th and 16th centuries; the 17th to 19th Century saw a comparative depopulation, with a reversal occurring in the late 20th Century. This is reflected in the buildings in Horsham town and the surrounding villages. The District is home to 1,860 listed buildings, 39 Conservation Areas, 77 Scheduled Ancient Monuments and 252 sites of archaeological interest, as well as historic parks and gardens.

8.2 Understanding the cultural heritage of the District is important as it guides settlement patterns and historic landscape considerations, and also influences decisions about the materials used in development. The historic environment also has a key role to play in the local economy: historic buildings in town centres attract businesses and shoppers, and stately homes and parks are often a tourist attraction. 

8.3 For development to be sustainable, good design is essential.  It will need to draw on local, social and environmental characteristics alongside visual and functional concerns. Good design will ensure that development enhances and complements local character, landscape and open spaces, and ensure that environmental mitigation is incorporated into development. Ultimately good design should achieve vibrant and functional communities with a distinctive 'sense of place'.

Strategic Policy 33: Development Quality

8.4 Good design is a key element in sustainable development. This policy seeks to ensure that development in the District promotes a high standard of design, architecture and landscape. Development will be required to enhance and protect locally distinctive characters through good design, landscaping (both within a scheme and in terms of the impact on surrounding landscapes), creating or contributing to the identity or 'sense of place', and in ensuring that local, social and environmental characteristics are considered.

Strategic Policy 33 - Development Quality

High quality and inclusive design for all development in the District will be required based on a clear understanding of the local, physical, social, economic, environmental and policy context for development. In particular, development will be required to:

  1. Provide an attractive, functional, accessible, safe and adaptable environment in accordance with the principles of the National Design Guide, or any future updates;
  2. Complement and respond to locally distinctive characters and heritage of the District. In appropriate locations where existing character allows, unique modern new design which has a high standard of architectural principles may be considered;
  3. Contribute a sense of place both in the buildings and spaces themselves and in the way they integrate with their structural surroundings and the landscape in which they sit;
  4.  Make efficient use of land and optimise the provision and use of buildings and open space within a site, taking into account the character, appearance and needs, together with the appearance and needs of the surrounding area;
  5. Contribute to, and enhance, the green infrastructure that makes the District a more pleasant place to live. Existing landscape belts, trees, and hedgerows that are field boundaries and form the character of the landscape should be retained; and
  6. Help secure a framework of high quality open spaces which meets the identified needs of the community as set out in any relevant Neighbourhood Plan, Design Statement and Character Statement. 

Strategic Policy 34: Development Principles

8.5 To ensure that all proposals for development are of high quality, well designed and take account the existing character of the area, the following policy will apply to all new development. Applicants must consider all of the criteria within this policy in relation to their proposal, and will be required to justify why they do not consider a specific element relevant to their application. The NPPF is clear that we should achieve appropriate densities and optimise use of land. This will require consideration of a range of factors including an area’s prevailing character and setting and the potential for regeneration or change.

Strategic Policy 34 -  Development Principles

In order to conserve and enhance the natural and built environment, all proposals for development will be required to:

  1. Make efficient use of land, and prioritise the use of previously developed land and buildings whilst respecting any constraints that  exist and meet the requirements of, and accord with, other Local Plan policies and designations;
  2. Provide or retain a good standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and buildings of the proposed site;
  3. Be designed to avoid unacceptable harm to the amenity of existing and future occupiers or users of nearby property and land, for example through overlooking, dominance or overshadowing, traffic generation and general activity, noise, odour and/or vibration, whilst also having regard to the sensitivities/impact of surrounding development;
  4. Ensure that the scale, massing and appearance of the development is of a high standard of design and layout and relates sympathetically with the built surroundings, landscape, open spaces and routes within and adjoining the site, including any impact on the skyline and important views;
  5. Ensure that it is locally distinctive in character, respects and responds to the character of the surrounding area (including the overall setting, townscape features, views and green corridors) and, where available and applicable, takes account of the recommendations/ advice in the relevant Supplementary Planning Documents, Design Statements and Character Assessments;
  6. Use high standards of building materials, finishes and landscaping and be sustainable in design and construction, incorporating best practice in resource management, energy efficiency and climate change adaption; 
  7. Include the provision of street furniture,  public art and streetscene improvements where appropriate;
  8. Development must relate sympathetically to the local landscape and should retain existing important landscape and natural features, for example trees, hedges, banks and watercourses. Any losses or harm to landscape and natural features that may occur through the development will require justification and evidence that new opportunities will be provided or that that mitigation or compensation for any loss will be provided. 
  9. Ensure buildings and spaces are orientated to gain maximum benefit from sunlight and passive solar energy, unless this conflicts with the character of the surrounding townscape, landscape or topography where it is of good quality.

8.6 Proposals will also need to take the following into account where relevant:

  1. Incorporate convenient, safe and visually attractive areas for the parking of vehicles and cycles, and the storage of bins/recycling facilities;
  2. Incorporate measures to reduce actual or perceived opportunities for crime or antisocial behaviour both on the site and in the surrounding area. Measures include the creation of visually attractive frontages with windows and doors that provide  informal surveillance of public areas by occupants of the site , adjoining streets and public spaces; and
  3. Make a clear distinction between the public and private spaces.

Policy 35: Heritage Assets and Managing Change within the Historic Environment

8.7 The historic environment is one of the District's greatest assets. It is rich and varied through both the urban and rural contexts of the District, with many high quality historic places that have formed part of the landscape for thousands of years. In many places throughout the District, the historic environment is the district's environment. Farms, hamlets, villages and towns form the core of this District's historic development and character.

8.8 The Council recognises that the historic environment is an irreplaceable resource which should be conserved for future generations. It provides a backdrop to sustainable tourism and local economy by creating places that are unique to the district.

8.9 The historic environment is recognised and conserved through local and statutory designations. The District is home to around 1,500 Listed Buildings, including St. Mary's House, 27 Conservation Areas, 30 Scheduled Monuments, 252 Sites of Archaeological Interest and a number of Registered Parks and Gardens, including Leonardslee Gardens, Knepp Castle and Warnham Court.

8.10 Local heritage is recognised through designated Sites of Archaeological Interest, "Locally Listed" buildings as well as similar assets which come to light during the course of development. Collectively, the District's historic environment are these heritage assets and carry weight in the consideration of planning and development matters.

8.11 Heritage assets may be classified as either 'designated' or 'non-designated' and both can be important to consider through the planning process. The aim of the historic environment policy is to preserve and, where appropriate, enhance the significance of the District's heritage assets, including where those qualities make the asset special and historic. Significance is defined as the value of the heritage asset and setting as illustrated by the archaeological, architectural, artistic and historic interest it possesses.

Horsham Roofing Stone

8.12 Of the local building materials used in the construction of buildings in the past, Horsham roofing stone is the most difficult to obtain, but is also a locally distinctive building material which makes a strong contribution to the character of the District. Horsham Roofing Stone is a relatively scarce material and it is essential that opportunities to extract the stone are taken to ensure the District’s historic roofs, including those of listed buildings, can be repaired in the future. The availability of Horsham roofing stone will also enable new development to reinforce the local distinctiveness of the District.

8.13 In order to facilitate opportunities for extraction of Horsham Stone, the Council will expect development proposals to include a proportionate minerals resource assessment. Where a site is underlain by the safeguarded area for building stone as illustrated in the West Sussex Joint Minerals Local Plan or contains a site of historic Horsham stone extraction a minerals resource assessment must be to a standard acceptable to the Minerals Planning Authority. 

Policy 35 - Heritage Assets and Managing change in the Historic Environment 

The Council recognises that heritage assets, both designated and non-designated, and their settings are an irreplaceable resource, and as such the Council will preserve and enhance its historic environment through positive management of development affecting heritage assets. Applications for such development will be required to:
  1. Make reference to, and show an understanding of, the significance of the asset, including drawing from research and documentation such as the West Sussex Historic Environment Record. Proposals to alter or extend Listed Buildings, including curtilage listed buildings, must be accompanied by a Heritage Statement;
  2. Reflect the current best practice guidance produced by Historic England and Conservation Area Character Statements;
  3. Make a positive contribution to the character and distinctiveness of the area, and ensuring that development in conservation areas is consistent with the special character of those areas;
  4. Preserve, and ensure clear legibility of, locally distinctive vernacular building forms and their settings and features including trees, fabric and materials;
  5. Secure the viable and sustainable future of heritage assets through continued preservation by uses that are consistent with the significance of the heritage asset. Change of use must be compatible with, and respect, the special architectural or historic interest of the asset and setting; and
  6. Ensure appropriate archaeological research, investigation, recording and reporting of both above and below-ground archaeology, and retention where required, and provide assessments as appropriate.
Proposals which would cause substantial harm to, or loss of a heritage asset will not be supported unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial public benefits gained would outweigh the loss of the asset and that any replacement scheme makes an equal contribution to local character and distinctiveness. Applicants must show an understanding of the significance of the heritage asset to be lost, either wholly or in part, and demonstrate how the heritage asset has been recorded.

Policy 36 - Shop Fronts and Advertisements

Shop Fronts and advertisements

8.14 Shop fronts, including temporary shop fronts, and advertising help contribute to a vibrant and successful economy. To enable shopping areas to remain vibrant whilst protecting the often historic character of town and village centres across the District, shop fronts and advertisements will be expected to be of high quality and will require a particularly sensitive approach in Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings.

8.15 When assessing the relationship of the shop front to the building the Council will require details of the evaluation of the whole building frontage. In Conservation Areas in particular, traditional materials of suitable colours or high quality substitutes should be used. Applicants should consult Horsham District Council: Design of Shopfronts and Advertisements or any subsequent updates, as well as any other Council or local parish design guidance.

Policy 36 - Shop Fronts and Advertisements

  • Applications for new, replacement and temporary shop fronts, including fascias, will be supported where the proposal respects the architectural style, character and form of the buildings or location of which they form a part, including appropriate use of materials, colour and illuminations.
  • Within Conservation Areas or on Listed Buildings or other designated heritage assets, proposals will be expected to retain an existing traditional shop front and/or features of architectural or historic interest, through retention or restoration. This will include the use of traditional materials, traditionally painted fascias and hanging signs with muted colours. In some cases, discreet externally illuminated signs may be acceptable.
  • Advertisements, including hoardings, illumination of hoardings and illuminated fascia signs should be sensitively designed, of an appropriate size and appropriately located. Advertisements should not be detrimental to the visual amenity of the buildings or area by reason of scale, detail, character, design or illumination; impair on pedestrian or highway safety; or result in, or compound, the perception of clutter on the street scene.
  • The cumulative impact of advertisements on the character and appearance of the surrounding townscape and landscape will be considered as part of any such application. 


  • Do you agree with the draft policies in this section?
  • If not, what changes would you suggest?