Housing and planning remain the hottest of local topics. Last Friday I had meetings with Saxon Weald, the Housing Association who provide affordable properties in the Horsham District, and with the Chief Executive of Horsham District Council, where I discussed their forthcoming plan.
I also spoke to Mid Sussex councillors about planning issues on Saturday morning, and relayed many of their concerns to the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, who I once again met on Monday.
The Mid Sussex plan was sent back by the Planning Inspector on the grounds that they had failed in the 'duty to co-operate' with other councils. But this duty was never intended to be a duty to agree or to be applied so onerously.
I have also raised issues about the need for adequate infrastructure to support development, and to ensure that emerging neighbourhood or local plans are not undermined by speculative development applications.
We have seen such applications in villages like Angmering, Storrington, Henfield, Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks. I have just written to Mid Sussex District Council raising a formal objection to a proposal to develop Ham Fields on the London Road in Hassocks.
I do not usually object to individual planning applications, but this is another case where I have pointed out that this proposed housing is not what Hassocks is proposing in its neighbourhood plan, so should not be allowed.
Nicholas Soames and I continue to object to the Mayfield new town proposal between Henfield and Sayers Common on similar grounds - that, quite apart from being unsustainable, it is not what either Horsham or Mid Sussex councils are proposing in their plans.
I have raised all of these concerns with Ministers at the highest level and I hope that the Government will take them on board in revised planning guidance which they are expected to publish this week.
I also hope that they will decide not to go ahead with a proposal to allow the conversion of barns in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Parks without planning permission.
I'm certainly not necessarily against barn conversions, but I think these should be decided by the planning authority to ensure that they are appropriate in protected landscapes, and not allowed automatically.
Ministers have been listening to our concerns about local planning, and I believe that they will show this in the announcements they make.