Arun villages unite against "unsustainable" housing plans
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has handed a joint statement to Arun District Council on behalf of several villages that have joined forces to fight plans to build thousands of new houses in the district.
Local representatives described the Government's target of 11,500 new houses as "unsustainable", and they condemned the three options in the Council's consultation as "Hobson's Choice".
The move follows a meeting last month chaired by Mr Herbert and attended by parish and town councillors from Aldingbourne, Angmering, Arundel, Barnham, Climping, Eastergate, Ford, Walberton and Yapton.
Arun District Council has been consulting the public on a report, entitled ‘Arun Core Strategy - Options for Growth', which sets out options for meeting the Government's target to build 11,500 houses in the district by 2026.
Some of the sites for new housing have already been earmarked, but the Council still needs to identify locations for around 6,000 houses. The consultation, which closed on 2 April, focused on three options:
1) ‘Sustainable urban extensions', with 2,500 homes to the north-west of Bognor Regis, 2,000 north of Littlehampton and 500 at Angmering, with a further 400-900 on greenfield sites on the edge of existing inland settlements;
2) An ‘eco-town' of 5,000 homes at Ford, with a further 400-900 on greenfield sites elsewhere in the district;
3) Expansion of inland villages - 2,500 around Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate, 1,500 at Angmering and 1,500 north of Littlehampton, with a further 400-900 on greenfield sites elsewhere in the district.
The Council will choose one, or a combination, of the three options and produce a draft Core Strategy which will be subject to a further round of public consultation, before a final version is submitted to the Secretary of State.
At the meeting chaired by Mr Herbert, parish and town councillors agreed that the target to build 11,500 houses in Arun by 2026 was unsustainable; that they would not necessarily meet the local need for affordable accommodation; that the area did not have the infrastructure or jobs needed to cope with an increase in housing on this scale; that it would involve building on greenfield sites and change the rural character of our villages and towns irrevocably.
The councillors agreed that Option 1 would be preferable to Options 2 and 3, although the proposal to build 500 houses at Angmering was considered to be unsustainable. It was agreed that Options 2 and 3 were unacceptable.
Option 3 was felt to be particularly damaging to Angmering, where 1,500 new houses could not be supported by the village infrastructure, and to Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate, where the addition of 2,500 houses would be equally damaging and create an urban sprawl.
It was agreed that any housing allocated beyond the urban extensions should be spread sustainably across the villages, rather than concentrated in certain areas as currently proposed, although Walberton Parish Council has subsequently expressed concern that this would have a negative impact on the villages.
Nick Herbert commented: "My concern is that if this level of new housing is focused on Arun's villages then the rural character of the District will be lost irrevocably. We simply cannot agree with development on this scale. Local people have been presented with ‘Hobson's Choice', where all of the options for development are undesirable.
"I don't blame Arun District Council - it's the Government which has imposed unsustainable house building targets on them. Nevertheless, I hope that the Council will recognise the real concern in the villages about the damaging impact of mass housebuilding on their quiet rural communities."
The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Villages Action Group (VAG) and Communities Against Ford Eco-Town (CAFE).
Notes for Editors
1. For further details of Arun District Council's LDF process, visit www.arun.gov.uk/ldf.
2. For the website of the Villages Action Group (VAG), visit http://www.villagesactiongroup.org/.
3. For the website of Communities Against Ford Eco-Town (CAFE), visit http://www.nofordecotown.com/.