VOTE: Do you agree with the planners’ policy that attracting new jobs is more important than building new homes in the area?

Jobs before houses around Bognor Regis has become the planning policy of Arun District Council.

Councillors have agreed a further cut in housing to be built. But the reduction has been criticised as a shameful attack on those in need of homes.

The number of properties which Arun District Council will seek to allow each year will be 400.

The target was decisively agreed by councillors last week at a full meeting of the Conservative-run council.

It was a reduction from the figure of 425 agreed by a sub-committee a fortnight earlier.

The target will apply for the next 17 years and will enable 6,800 homes to be built in that period.

This is a reduction of almost a third on the 565 units which the previous government had ordered the council to allow.

But it is closer to the views expressed by residents at ten public meetings held by the council last winter.

Arun also agreed to set aside 25.5 hectares of land during the same period to provide employment.

Ricky Bower, who is Arun’s lead councillor for planning, said: “This recommendation follows a consultation exercise. It is localism at work.

“We are doing what the people who have been consulted have told us is their preference.”

Experience of the past decade proved building homes did not lead to more jobs, he said. It merely added to the existing pressure on services.

He said: “The message has to go out from this authority in my view that we have had enough of the infrastructure deficit in Arun.

“We have had enough of houses without jobs and creating new houses for people to live here like we are a dormitory town.

“We have a right to our own economy and a right to support jobs in our district.”

He was supported by Lib Dem councillor Simon McDougall. He said his Bersted ward had suffered greatly from recent decisions to allow housing.

Residents across the district clearly wanted jobs rather than houses and to protect the countryside.

But Labour’s Roger Nash said settling for the lower figure was an attack on people in housing need.

“It’s a shameful decision. It will get nowhere near to solving the housing crisis we have in this district.

“We have pulled the rug from under the thousands of people in Arun who want a decent home. We have condemned them to years in inadequate housing.

“We have a duty as councillors to stand up for what is right and say what is wrong.

“What is wrong is to cut the number of houses,” he said. “What is right is to provide decent houses for people in the district and those who want to live here.”

He said he was flabbergasted by Cllr Bower’s backing fewer homes to be built.

It went against the advice of the council’s senior housing officer and could put Arun on a collision course with the government.

But a proposal by Lib Dem Dr James Walsh to enable 495 homes a year to be built was easily defeated.

“We ignore the strong professional advice of our officers at our own risk,” he said.

“I was totally surprised Cllr Bower came along at this stage with a figure which seems to have been plucked out of the air.”