Countryside

West Sussex County Times Article

The Arundel and South Downs constituency is defined by the beauty of its villages and the countryside.  These assets, which also define England, are priceless and they must be protected.

We need more housing in this country.  Housebuilding is at record lows, and the price of the average home purchased by a first time buyer is now almost six and a half times the average annual salary.  It is very hard for young people to get their foot on the housing ladder.

But the idea that we can build our way out of this problem by busting through the planning system is wrong.

For a start, almost half a million residential dwellings with planning permission have not yet been built.  The problem is not the supply of land, but the economy.  The builders don't want to build.

Top-down housing targets didn't work.  They set up conflict.  The Government's planning reforms return power to communities, and with it responsibility.

Our villages are now preparing neighbourhood plans and deciding, sensibly, how much housing is needed and is sustainable, and what areas to protect.

There are other issues still to address.  Local businesses tell me that the system creates unnecessary and costly delays.

But there's also a bullet to bite.  The population of the UK is projected to grow by over 7 million to 70 million in the next 16 years, 5 million due to immigration - that is five times the population of Birmingham.

This is totally unsustainable, and why it is so important to bring down net migration.  The latest figures show that at last this is beginning to happen.

There are also critical infrastructure issues to address.  Inadequate sewage systems are a serious problem in villages like Pulborough.  I am calling a meeting next month to discuss this issue.

Water is in short supply, primary schools are oversubscribed, roads are blocked and pollution levels in villages like Storrington are high.

Local people recognise the need for some more affordable housing - but at sustainable levels.

We must not lose the rural character of West Sussex.  Walking on the Downs last weekend, watching over the same landscape that Turner painted, I was reminded once again of how precious it is.

Not just the protected landscape of the National Park, but the countryside you see beyond.  It is not ours to despoil.  It is ours in trust to value, and to hand on to future generations.


Document type

Articles

Published

6 September 2012

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