MP calls on Arun councillors to reject unsustainable housing plans

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has written to all of the Arun District councillors asking them to reject unsustainable housing plans in the local Plan.

His email to them in full is below:

Dear Councillor

I am writing to you ahead of your full Council meeting this week (Wednesday 8 January) where you will be considering the local Plan and specifically housing numbers and locations.  I appreciate how important this meeting is for our District.

I appreciate that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment has produced a claimed figure for housing need.  However, it is open to the Council to set a housing number that is different to the assessed level of need.  I set out this out in a letter last November to members of the Plan Sub-Committee (see  I strongly urge you to read this letter before reaching a final view.

I am concerned that the Local Plan Sub-Committee did not understand these points.  The Committee should not simply have translated the figure for housing need into a housing number (580 houses a year over 15 years).  The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that a local plan CAN deliver a lower number of houses than the objectively assessed need "... if any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits ...." (NPPF, para 14).  Yet this point is simply omitted from the Chief Planning Officer's report to the Committee, and the balancing exercise has not been undertaken.  I believe this failure to consider the sustainability of the proposed housing numbers is a serious failure of process.

Hastings Council recently successfully set a lower housing number - in fact, HALF the assessed level of need - which was endorsed by the Planning Inspectorate.  They took into proper consideration the constraints on delivering housing, including the environmental dimension which is integral to the principle of sustainable development in the Localism Act.  As you are aware, there are significant constraints to development in Arun, where a high proportion of the landscape is protected and there are already problems of inadequate local infrastructure, including flooding, congested roads, and pressure on local public services.  The recent heavy rainfall and flooding in West Sussex has only underlined these concerns.

Wrongly adopting a higher housing number without considering overall sustainability is leading the Council towards choosing strategic sites, including two in my constituency - Angmering and Barnham/Eastergate - which would otherwise not be necessary.  You will be aware of the strong objections to these proposals.  Angmering has already expanded substantially, and 500 further houses will put even greater pressure on infrastructure, especially local roads.  A new settlement of 2,000 houses in the Barnham/Eastergate area will destroy the green gap between villages, create a suburban-style conurbation, and build on an area prone to flooding.  Both proposed strategic developments are severely undermining neighbourhood planning and the public support which is necessary for this process.

I therefore strongly urge the Council:

1.    To REJECT the higher housing number of 580 a year and the 'strategic' housing allocations at Angmering and Barnham/Eastergate.

2.    To instruct the Sub-Committee urgently to re-consider the housing number, this time making a proper assessment of the overall sustainability of housing numbers, including the infrastructure and environmental constraints.

It is argued that the proposed Plan and housing numbers must be be adopted because without a plan the area is vulnerable to speculative development applications.  In fact, weight can be given to emerging plans when speculative applications are considered.  In any case, this is a self-defeating argument, which seems to say that a bad plan is better than no plan.  The truth is that a bad plan will do far more damage to our villages than the temporary absence of one.  The Council can and should only settle for a good plan.

If you set a higher housing number, you will be stuck with it.  You will have nothing left to argue for with the Planning Inspectorate, and I will be unable to make your case to the Government.  You are well aware of the strong local feelings about the proposed housing numbers and the strategic allocations, particularly the impact which they will have on Angmering and the Five Villages.  I believe that there will be a severe price to pay if these local views are ignored.

Furthermore, if the Council endorses the housing numbers and strategic allocations as proposed by the Sub-Committee, I believe that the Plan will be judged to be flawed.  I regret that I would have to object to it formally.

We all understand the need for new housing, especially affordable homes, and under any of the scenarios a substantial level of housing will be provided.  However, this number must be sustainable.

You face a crucial test this week.  I very much hope that the Council will exercise its powers under the Localism Act, set a sustainable housing number for the district, and reject damaging proposals that would destroy our villages.

Yours sincerely