Ideas to help solve Arun’s severe housing shortage have sparked parish concerns.
Arun District Council cannot meet its obligation to identify enough suitable land for housing in its local plan.
The situation has seen neighbourhood plans – legal documents giving residents a say over the future of their parishes – often overridden.
Parish clerks are set for crunch talks today (Tuesday, November 29) amid concerns Arun’s latest ideas to address the shortfall could further devalue the plans.
Liberal Democrat leader Francis Oppler said: “Unfortunately with the problems Arun has got itself in, neighbourhood plans are worthless pieces of paper.”
Arun’s local plan sets the strategic vision for housing, while neighbourhood plans can allocate sites for smaller-scale developments.
But the council expects larger projects to take longer to commence, leaving a shortage in the short-term.
To plug the gap, Arun is considering inviting applications on scores of small sites.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, representatives of Yapton, Angmering and Walberton parish councils expressed concerns this could lead to housing on sites their plans deem unsuitable.
In a statement, Yapton Parish Council vowed to object to applications conflicting with their plan.
It added: “Residents are beginning to think all their efforts in preparing and getting the neighbourhood plan agreed was wasted with the tactics that Arun is currently using.”
Walberton Parish Council chairman Suzanne Clark has written to Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert, raising concerns Arun’s ideas could see her council ‘lose its localism powers’.
Angmering parish councillor Steven Mountain, meanwhile, said: “In the current circumstances the neighbourhood plans are completely worthless if Arun is going to be allowed to simply declare them out of date.”
The local plan sub-committee will meet next week to discuss options.
Arun has arranged a meeting with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to discuss tensions between local and neighbourhood plans.
An Arun spokesman said the authority ‘understood’ the frustrations of residents – and shared many – but defended the value of the plans.
They said: “Neighbourhood plans are particularly helpful in offering a local perspective to detailed planning considerations.
“In some areas development ideas have not been progressed because neighbourhood plans have strengthened existing protections.
“The council doesn’t agree that they are worthless. Arun has been and continues to be a strong advocate of neighbourhood planning and still remains the local authority with the highest number of neighbourhood plans in the country.”
Arun last month sought legal advice over how planning applications should be dealt with in light of its land supply problem.
The advice concluded the conventional position was planning policies, including those in neighbourhood plans, should be deemed out of date.
This was in spite of Yapton’s neighbourhood plan being upheld in September when housing plans in conflict with the document were refused on appeal.
The decision is subject to legal challenge.