MP vows to protect farmland from homes

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MP Nick Gibb has vowed to do everything he can to protect farmland in North Bersted.

Mr Gibb said he would not be prepared to allow the rural area north of Chalcraft Lane to disappear under concrete.

His comments came after he met the government’s planning minister, Nick Boles, with Arun District Council leader Gillian Brown and Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert.

Mr Gibb, the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, said the session last Thursday (June 6) had been positive.

It had been called amid fears government pressure for housing would see thousands more homes built on large rural sites such as Chalcraft Lane and around Eastergate and Barnham.

Mr Gibb said he now believed that need no longer be the case.

“We can avoid the large housing estates which people just don’t want to see built.

“I will continue to fight proposals for those large estates. I don’t want to see one of those estates at Chalcraft Lane. That would be totally unacceptable,” he said.

The Chalcraft Lane site, which separates Bognor and Chichester, is still subject to a plan by the Church Commissioners for 2,500 homes as well as create spaces for jobs.

It has yet to be decided by Arun and is fiercely opposed by the area’s councillors and residents.

“The people in this town are very clear about the amount of housing they want,” said Mr Gibb.

“The plans which the councillors approved still involve quite a lot of housing but not as much as originally put forward by officers.

“With a bit more work on the housing allocation documents, I think the councillors will be able to prepare a plan which is acceptable to the government and also acceptable to the people of Bognor.”

Cllr Mrs Brown said Mr Boles was well aware of the environmental constraints and infrastructur deficits which the Arun district faced. He also supported the idea of development to create economic regeneration rather than simply housing.

“Obviously, economic regeneration is, and must be, at the top of our priorities,” said Cllr Mrs Brown.

“We have in excess of 14,000 people out commuting each day from our district and we need to encourage business development, retain existing firms and attract inward investment to achieve a better balance between labour supply and demand and increase the quality of jobs in our district.

“The amount of housing that we have built over the last ten years hasn’t brought any employment and, in fact, the number of jobs has dropped.

“We need proper planning for the next 20 years to show we can match housing to employment and infrastructure provision and we need to look at all options, not just housing, to find a viable solution.”

Bersted parish councillors again expressed concern about the future of Chalcraft Lane at their meeting on Tuesday. But Arun planning officer Donna Moles said she was sure the gap would be preserved by the district councillors.