MPs urge Minister to "think again" on eco-town

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert and Bognor Regis & Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb held a meeting with Housing Minister Caroline Flint last week to discuss the proposed ‘eco-town’ at Ford.


The MPs met with the Minister for an hour in the Commons on Monday 7 July to raise their strong concerns about the proposal.

The Minister contended that there had been a lack of new-build social housing in the Arun District over the last few years.  She also suggested that there had been a lack of progress by Arun District Council in allocating land for new housing generally.  Mr Gibb pointed out that Arun had in fact, in its draft Local Development Framework (LDF), identified sites for 9,500 homes but that the additional 2,000 units demanded by the Inspector has resulted in inevitable delays to the finalisation of the LDF.

Mr Herbert pointed out that Arun District Council had recently written to the Minister clarifying the Council's position regarding land allocation and the LDF, pointing out that it had identified sites which would provide affordable housing in locations which would be more sustainable and deliverable than Ford.

Mr Herbert highlighted the serious inadequacy of local transport infrastructure, particularly congestion on the A259 and A27 and the lack of an Arundel bypass.  He pointed to the poor public transport available in the villages in the area and the rural setting of the proposed eco-town which would inevitably mean that most residents would require a car.

Mr Herbert said that his fundamental objection to the eco-town was that the local democratic processes were being circumvented.  He argued that local councillors were in the best position to make difficult judgements about where new housing should be built.

The Minister said she intended to visit the area, possibly during the week beginning 28 July, spending half a day in Arun, visiting the site, meeting developers, campaigners and the key people at Arun District Council.  The MPs said that they would welcome the visit and the opportunity for the Minister to see for herself that the site was almost wholly greenfield land, adjacent to villages and would have a fundamental impact on the character of the local area.

Following the meeting, Mr Herbert commented: "I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with the Minister and to put to her directly the strong concerns of local people.  The Minister kept referring to 'the airfield' and it was clear to me that she does not appreciate the rural and greenfield nature of the Ford site.  I hope that, when she visits the area, she will see for herself that Ford really isn't an appropriate place to build an eco-town."

Mr Gibb said: "Meeting the Minister face to face gave us the opportunity to tell her about the damage such a development would do to tourism in the area, to the already congested roads and to hundreds of acres of quality food-producing farmland.  I just hope she is listening."