MP asks Arun councillors to reconsider housing plans

30 April 2014

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has written to Arun District councillors ahead of their Full Council meeting today (Wednesday 30 April) asking them to reconsider major housing developments at Angmering and between Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate in their Local Plan.

His e-mail to them in full is below:

Dear Councillor

Ahead of your important decision at Full Council today on residual housing locations in your Local Plan, I am writing to urge you to consider the following six points about the proposals for a strategic development of 600 houses at Angmering and 2,000 at Barnham-Eastergate-Westergate (BEW), both in my constituency.

1. THE A29 WOODGATE BYPASS PROPOSAL IS NOT CREDIBLE.  The BEW settlement is being promoted to fund this bypass, but the road is not designated as a strategic route by West Sussex County Council, which says the focus should be on the A259.  A single carriageway bypass will not address Bognor's needs, and any gain from a bridge over the railway will be more than cancelled out by the additional traffic arising from 2,500 homes.  The £30 million cost is highly unlikely to be funded when there are other national priorities including the A27. 

2. AN ALTERNATIVE POTENTIAL BROWNFIELD SITE AT FORD HAS BEEN SIDELINED.  This is in breach of the Government's planning policy, which clearly states that brownfield land must be prioritised for development.  Furthermore, development of this site - in contrast to Angmering and BEW - is supported by the relevant parish council.  This is NOT the Eco-town proposal, which was for a far higher housing number on greenfield land and which we all agreed was unsustainable; these two proposals are different but have deliberately been confused.

3. A NEW TOWN IS UNSUSTAINABLE.  Allocating such a large proportion of the housing to one greenfield site in the District, at BEW, is unfair and unwise.  It will close the green gap between the affected villages, damage countryside and create a suburban sprawl.  Drainage issues are unresolved and a real concern.

4. THE PLAN WORKS AGAINST PARISH COUNCILS WHEN IT COULD BE WORKING WITH THEM.  The BEW and Angmering strategic allocations are undermining neighbourhood planning.  Yet the experience of the early neighbourhood plans in West Sussex is that they are providing for housing responsibly, even in numbers in excess of those allocated by district councils, but with local consent.  You could let this process run and work with parish councils to deliver your required housing numbers.  Instead, the proposed plan unnecessarily antagonises local communities and undermines support for responsible housing provision.

5. THE PLAN IS AT RISK OF BEING DECLARED UNSOUND.  At present the plan is likely to be strongly challenged at inspection not just by developers, which is to be expected, but also by parish councils and other key stakeholders, including me.  Its failure to prioritise a brownfield site, its unviable and un-evidenced road proposal, and its unsustainable strategic allocations which were presented as the only options for public consultation, are all critical weaknesses which I believe will lead to the plan being rejected unless the problematic strategic allocations are dropped.

6. THERE IS A WAY FORWARD WHICH DOES NOT MEAN DELAY.  The Government's planning guidance issued in March (see http://is.gd/4h1CeC) makes clear that you do NOT have to identify these strategic sites for the last five years of your plan.  The Minister stated that "local plans can pass the test of soundness where authorities have not been able to identify land for growth in years 11 to 15 of their local plan, which often can be the most challenging part for a local authority."  I urge you to read and act upon this official guidance, which I pressed for strongly, as it was intended by Ministers to help councils such as Arun.  Contrary to what is being suggested, you CAN drop the strategic allocations at Angmering and BEW without identifying alternatives and still proceed with the plan without delaying it.  You can then re-open sensible discussions with the parishes.

I implore you to consider these issues carefully before you make your decision today.  There is huge concern in the affected villages that major developments are about to be imposed on them.   But you do not have to do this.  Wouldn't it be so much better to move forward with a plan which has the support of your parishes, local communities and MPs, and around which district councillors can unite rather than divide?

Yours sincerely

NICK HERBERT
  

ENDS

  

Notes

•1.    To read Nick Herbert's news release from 1 April 2014 ‘Arun District Council is ignoring new planning guidance' please see http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/515/mp-arun-district-council-is-ignoring-new-planning-guidance

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