Housing targets for Arun are "unsustainable"

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has said that the Government-imposed targets for house-building in Arun over the next 20 years are unsustainable and threaten the character of our villages and countryside.

Mr Herbert raised particular concerns about the proposed additional housing in the Five Villages area and at Angmering.

The MP was speaking at public meetings in Aldingbourne on Friday evening (23 January) and Angmering on Saturday morning (24 January) following the publication of a report by Arun District Council which sets out options for building thousands of new homes in the district by 2026.

The report, entitled ‘Arun Core Strategy - Options for Growth', has already been considered by the Council's Local Development Framework (LDF) Sub-Committee and will be issued for public consultation from 12 February to 26 March.

The report sets out the following options for development in Arun:

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.  The Council has already indicated that it has a preference for Option 1, believing it to be more sustainable than Options 2 and 3.

The LDF process will help Arun to meet its obligation to build 11,300 new houses by 2026.  This figure represents an increase of 2,000 on the original target of 9,300 set out in the draft South East Plan, prepared by the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA).

Mr Herbert said: "We all know that there is a problem for young people who cannot get a foot on the property ladder, and think we accept that there will have to be some increase in housing.  The debate will be about how much housing there should be and then about where you put it.  But I think the overall levels of housing which are being proposed for the South East, for West Sussex and for Arun, are unsustainably high.

"We've already seen a situation in which the number of houses proposed for West Sussex over the next two decades has increased from 58,000 to more than 74,000.  10,000 of those have been absorbed in Shoreham but a significant amount of the extra housing that has been allocated through the Regional Assembly, and in the Government demanding that there should be more, will be built in Arun where the allocation has gone up from 9,300 to 11,300.  And that puts our own local authority in a very difficult position.  Extremely difficult decisions will have to be taken about where to allocate that housing.

"I think we all have to decide, as a West Sussex community, whether we want to turn our rural villages into a kind of suburban conurbation, because that could happen over the next 20 years if these decisions are got wrong.  We will find that our villages lose their individual identities and developments will run into each other, much as they have done around Worthing.  I suspect that local people don't want to see that.  I think it will irrevocably change the character of this area.

"There are, of course, very serious arguments about sustainability of development, both of the eco-town and of development that may affect our villages.  Have we got the infrastructure to sustain development on the scale proposed?  We all know about the problems on the A27, the need for a new Arundel bypass, pressures on our public services, pressures on water supplies in this part of the world, and so on.  

"Additional housing must be sustainable, added without causing the kind of wreckage to our countryside and to our villages that we've all seen elsewhere."

Mr Herbert added that the proposed eco-town at Ford would not help the situation or the development pressure on villages because the housing numbers might add to Arun's target.  He strongly criticised some promoters of the eco-town who mistakenly believed that new housing at Ford would prevent development at Aldingbourne.

The MP said: "This kind of beggar-my-neighbour approach is deeply unfriendly and unfair to neighbouring communities.  We should all share a common concern to protect the rural character of our villages."



Notes for Editors

1. For further details of Arun District Council's Local Development Framework (LDF) process, visit www.arun.gov.uk/cgi-bin/buildpage.pl?mysql=2118.

2. For a copy of the ‘Options for Growth' report, submitted to Arun District Council's LDF Sub-Committee on 16 December 2008, visit http://www.arun.gov.uk/assets/Agenda/LDF/LDF_Sub_Framework_Agenda_16_12_08.pdf.

Christopher N Howarth