North Bersted site is set to be rejected for new homes

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PLANS for a large development on farmland in North Bersted look likely to fail.

The Church Commissioners devised the Bognor Regis Eco Quarter scheme for the rural site north-west of Chalcraft Lane in 2009.

This comprised 2,000 homes initially. Another 500 would follow on a total of 370 acres.

It would also have space for employment and land for a school and a medical centre.

It has never been decided by Arun District Council and remains a live application.

But councillors last week voted to reject the location as being suitable for development.

A report stated the site had some benefits but sewage capacity was a problem and the loss of top grade farmland.

This decision followed a vote to re-instate the strategic gap between Bognor Regis and Chichester, in which the farmland is located, in the council’s draft local plan.

This restores the gap, designed to ensure the settlements stay separate, to its prominence of ten years ago.

The decision was taken by Arun’s local plan sub-committee last Thursday without any debate.

Simon Meecham, the council’s head of planning policy and conservation, said: “Arun wishes gaps to remain despite the government thinking they are obstacles to growth.”

A review of the gap, and the others across the district, was undertaken by the council last summer which led to the recommendation to the sub-committee.

Its decision will be considered by the full meeting of Arun on January 8.

The sub-committee also rejected the location as being suitable for a strategic housing development of thousands of homes.

After the meeting, one of Bersted’s district councillors, Simon McDougall, said: “I am delighted that the sub-committee has decided to retain the gap between Bognor and Chichester and remove Chalcraft lane as a strategic housing site during the plan period.

“It was obvious from the start with its reputation for high water tables, poor road connections and loss of panoramic views that this was the wrong site from the start.”

But Cllr McDougall said he was concerned the location could still come under threat from development.

Bersted Parish Council needed to get a neighbourhood plan in place to reflect Arun’s latest decision.

The fact the planning application was still live could mean the inspector at the examination in public into the local plan next year could deem it suitable for development if a higher annual housing target of 800 was decided rather than the 580 put forward by Arun.