Campaign group says ‘localism is finished’

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LOCALISM is dead, claims a group campaigning against new homes in the villages.

The Villages Action Group (VAG), who are working against large-scale housing in the Aldingbourne, Westergate, Eastergate and Barnham, have warned parishes across the Arun district they believe Arun District Council is imposing what they call unwanted and inappropriate housing developments against the will of local people.

Mike Turner, the chairman of the action group, said: “All over Arun, teams of people have been devoting time to their neighbourhood plans that they have been lead to believe will determine the future of their communities.

“Residents have been canvassed and consulted on their needs and wishes. Neighbourhood plans are a positive step in local democracy but Arun is dismissive of the process, the detail and the outcomes of all that effort.

“Unless the council and its officers respect residents neighbourhood plans and give them precedence in shaping the future of Arun, we will have lost control of our own destiny for the area.

“People will not accept imposed, centralised diktats.

“Leadership is required to reassert the localism agenda. If this is not forthcoming from the current leadership, they will face the consequences of an increasingly disillusioned electorate.”

Mr Turner made his comments after members of Arun District Council’s development and control committee allowed permission for 40 homes to be built on greenfield land at the Brooks Nursery site in Eastergate.

Mr Turner said only two out of some 40 objectors were permitted to speak against the application at the meeting held in Arun’s civic centre on August 28, and their concerns about flooding was ignored by the council’s officers.

He added councillors who argued against the plans were told should they reject the development their reasons for refusal would not be able to be defended should the developer David Wilson Homes, part of Barratt Homes, take it to an appeal.

Mr Turner claims the efforts of local people and councillors who are trying to ensure any new building reflects local need is being frustrated and that local communities are at risk of losing their unique character 
and charm.

He said allowing the application went against councillors who voted in favour of preserving and protecting the gap which exists between Eastergate and Barnham.

The new dwellings on the Brooks Nursery site will be made up of six two-bed homes, 18 four-bed properties and four three-bed homes.

The development will also include 12 affordable homes. These will include three two-bed homes and nine three-bed properties.