I am writing in response to the letter penned by Peter Allsopp in last week’s letters where he makes comment on several issues relating to Bersted Parish Council, and in particular the neighbourhood plan.
I do not intend to be drawn into a long debate and so these will be my only comments on the matter.
Quite correctly, as Mr Allsopp mentioned, I do hold a surgery for Shripney residents on a quarterly basis.
This meeting is held in the function room of the Robin Hood public house in Shripney, made possible by the very valued support of the management there.
The meetings are of an informal nature and are, in the main, very well supported.
A recent community flood action group has been set up by two local residents who are commended for their initiative and drive.
This group is totally independent of Bersted Parish Council, but the council will assist the group whenever and however required.
Bersted Parish Council is very concerned regarding the flooding issues as they affect the parish and to these ends regulariy attend the multi-agency food meetings, chaired by Nick Gibb, to ensure the interests of the parish are recognised.
The main point of this correspondence, however, is to clear some points made with reference to the neighbourhood plan: firstly, great concern has been shown over two sites mentioned in the October 2011 draft document, Manor Farm Shripney, and land opposite Shripney Lane on the east side of the A29 at the junction of the A29 and Shripney Lane.
These are suggested sites only along with ten other sites (that were not mentioned) identified in the plan covering the whole of Bersted parish.
People reading Mr Allsopp’s letter could possibly be misled into thinking Shripney alone had been singled out for development. That is certainly not the case and, I am sure, not the intention.
The idea of the plan is for local residents, working alongside the parish council in the form of a steering group made up of two volunteers and two councillors, assisted by four working parties also made up of local volunteers, to identify sites for development which will cause least impact on the parish.
The plan states ‘no development is not an option’ – government department words, not ours.
The reality is a neighbourhood plan target of 50 dwellings in Bersted parish by 2028.
One concern raised was that no-one knew of the plan.
The truth of the matter is that earlier this year, every household in Bersted parish with occupants registered on Arun District Council’s voters’ list was in receipt of an information pack, containing a pre-paid envelope for reply, together with a questionnaire, and a leaflet advertising a series of public meetings.
Five meetings were held between February and March this year.
A total of 378 questionnaires were completed and returned, representing almost ten per cent of householders in the parish and, of those, 90 per cent agreed with the vision and objectives of the plan.
I can confirm when I was alerted by Mr Allsopp of his intention to raise the issue on July 19, I was unaware of any applications to develop the sites mentioned at Shripney because there were none.
He was referring to the suggested sites where no planning applications had been lodged.
At the request of Mr Allsopp and the residents present at my meeting on July 19, a further meeting was arranged for August 21 at the Robin Hood, where a spokesman for the neighbourhood plan and councillors would be present.
I am concerned the mood of residents is one of anger and mistrust with regards to Bersted Parish Council.
The councillors are all Bersted residents who give their time and services freely with one objective: to serve the community of Bersted to the best of their ability.
They are not corrupt or ‘on the take’, as was suggested by one narrow-minded resident at a recent meeting.
One final point. I would like to remind Mr Allsopp if he is interested, there is still a vacancy for a co-opted councillor within Bersted Parish Council.
Should he be interested in the post, I am sure the council would be pleased to consider his application along with others already received.
Chairman, Bersted Parish Council