Call for unity across area by villages’ campaigners


VILLAGES Action Group members have called for unity between the areas around Bognor Regis being considered for housing.

Chairman Mike Turner said the group was opposed to a debate in which parish was set against parish in a bid to avoid being earmarked for thousands of new homes. Everyone needed to work together.

“We are opposed to the building of 2,060 houses at Barnham/Eastergate/Westergate.

“But that does not mean the action group is in favour of large housing allocations in any of the other location discussed by Arun District Council, including west of Westergate, Ford, Bognor Regis Eco-Quarter or West Bank in Littlehampton.

“We believe localism and neighbourhood planning is the way forward,” he said.

“Housing provision should be based around what the parishes bring forward in neighbourhood plans, which have to go out to local referendum.

“This is what the National Planning Policy Framework provides for. The Villages Action Group is in favour of priority being given to affordable housing which meets the needs of local people, both for rent and shared equity housing.”

Mr Turner said the action group did not believe the district could absorb the 580 homes a year Arun District Council had agreed could be built.

The target should instead be the 430 annual homes which the district needed. The recent flooding had shown the higher number would worsen flood risks for communities by concreting over good quality farmland with a high winter ground water table.

He said the higher number would also only add to the daily outcommuting which already occurs and went against the sustainability theme of the planning framework. Carefully planned smaller scale developments in appropriate locations should be more sustainable and still provide the funding needed to meet the district’s urgent infrastructure needs.

Proposals for hundreds of homes have been made across the district in recent months.

“The message needs to be loud and clear that each application has to meet the test of whether the development is needed and sustainable, which is what the planning framework demands,” said Mr Turner.

“Each case will depend on site specific circumstances. Potential impacts on flooding and drainage, access to sustainable transport such as a railway station, infrastructure capacity, highways issues and other considerations.

“But recent flooding has shown that the knowledge of local people, particularly expressed through sound neighbourhood plans, is fundamental to sustainable development. Localism really can work.”

As reported, Arun’s councillors made a U-turn and decided against a recommendation to allocate land around Barnham and Eastergate for 2,060 homes. They instead decided to consider previously rejected sites, including the Eco-Quarter on Chalcraft Lane, in North Bersted, as well as the recommended ones before they make their final decision.