VILLAGE campaigners have lost their fight against a new town development by just five votes.
Well over a hundred protestors watched as an informal political alliance of councillors decided by 23-18, with four abstentions, to allocate land in the Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate area for 2,000 homes.
The site will be included in Arun District Council’s draft local plan for land use for the next 15 years.
This will be subject to an examination in public by a planning inspector before the document’s final version takes effect.
But the decision after a two-and-a-half hour debate also means the prospect of an improved A29, funded by the housing, has moved a big step closer to aid the regeneration of Bognor Regis.
Destroying the Barnham area to regenerate Bognor is too high a price to pay, one of the village’s councillors said.
Cllr Jean Goad (C) said: “This is one of the most important decisions we will ever make.
“It will affect not only Barnham ward but the whole district in all the years to come.
“Two thousand houses in one clump in Barnham is unacceptable and we should not be hussled into accepting the wrong plan in the wrong place.
“We are proposing development on marshland and this is bound to affect all those downstream in Bersted, Bognor Regis, Felpham and Middleton.
“The price of the regeneration is far too high. We all support it but the price is the destruction of villages, parts of which appear in the Doomsday Book.”
The idea of a bypass in the area had been talked about since 1936. It would remain unfullfilled, she warned.
“I don’t believe the money is there now. Re-aligning the A29 solves nothing. Instead of hold-ups at Westergate, you are swopping them for gridlock on a single carriageway road which has to go out through the Fontwell roundabout. And we all know what that is like.”
Fellow Barnham councillor John Charles (C) said: “I don’t want a 2,000 house development anywhere in the district, not just in Barnham.
“I’m not confident the new road will be built. The only sure thing is that we will have 2,000 houses.
“The plan will actually worsen the infrastructure deficit because the only investment will be in the form of the new road. There will be nothing left for education, health and social services.
“Local families will likely be unable to afford the housing. We will be building for people to move in to the area and give nothing to those already here.”
A full report of the debate will be in the Bognor Regis Observer on May 8.