Plea to scrap the gap plan opposed by the villagers

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RESIDENTS in Barnham and Eastergate have been urged to express their outrage about a proposal to scrap the gap between the villages.

Arun District Council’s local plan sub-committee was being recommended by its planning officers to abolish the local gap as part of its work compiling its local plan.

Villages Action Group chairman Mike Turner said: “The preservation of gaps was an important plank of the first draft of the local plan.

“This gap helps maintain the individual identities of the villages of Eastergate, Barnham and Walberton, which is the fundamental reason for having gaps at all.

“Removing it undermines their whole policy.”

As reported last week, the council wants to take away the protection to the countryside offered by the gap to enable it to go ahead with plans for a 2,000 home garden city-style development and a Woodgate bypass.

Both are central ideas in its emerging local plan to cover land use in the district up to 2029.

“Now Arun members have a costing of over £50m for the idea of an A29 bypass, with its full extension to Fontwell and Shripney, we hope they will re-consider the whole idea of putting thousands of homes on agricultural instead of brownfield land.

“Add to this the £50m-plus infrastructure costs, and the need to avoid drainage and flooding issues in Felpham and Bersted, and the whole scheme is not just unsustainable, it’s uneconomic,” said Mr Turner.

The action group was opposed to the bypass and railway bridge to replace the Woodgate level crossing whichever route was chosen.

He said: “Residents were appalled to find this week that Arun are still determined to railroad a bypass through Eastergate, funded by a new town in the countryside, when the whole idea is so obviously ill-conceived and completely misguided.

“We urge the people of Arun to make this clear to councillors.”

The Villages Action Group has consistently opposed the idea of large-scale building on the countryside which separates Aldingbourne, Westergate, Barnham and Eastergate.

It is in favour of housebuilding to cope with the local need and population growth and with some of the homes created as affordable housing.

Last night’s sub-committee meeting will be followed by several other meetings this month before a special meeting of all councillors on May 29 will agree the local plan’s draft version.

This will be put out for public consultation for six weeks.

It will also be sent to the Planning Inspectorate, one of whose inspectors will chair an examination in public about the plan’s main proposals.

This should be held towards the end of 2013. The inspector’s verdict will be considered by Arun next year to enable the local plan to become formal policy next June.