I write with reference to the article in last week’s Observer regarding the bridging of the Woodgate level crossing as part of Arun District Council’s Draft Local Plan.
It should be noted that the £20m cost of building the railway bridge and reconfiguring the roads in the area would be met by FIRST building more than 2,000 dwellings on greenfield, flood-prone, farm and nursery land between Westergate, Eastergate and Barnham.
Along with the level crossing problem, there are already other traffic bottlenecks along the A29 from Bognor to Fontwell, so how does the ‘planning supremo’ Cllr Bower imagine that the existing road network would cope with 3,000+ more vehicles in the 15 years before the bridge is built? How does he envisage businesses will be attracted to an area of high density housing with no satisfactory transport links? Who is going to buy these 2,000+ houses if there are no employment opportunities within walking or cycling distance and no suitable road network to support commuters?
Currently, there are few local job opportunities and this will reduce further as nursery land is sold off for housing development!
For the people who are willing to move to an area with little prospect of local employment, where are the necessary support services? Is it really possible for the local schools, which are already oversubscribed, to offer 600 to 1,000 or more school places?
Even if GP surgeries ‘expand to cope’, what about social services, health-visiting and elderly care? These services are already being cut and struggle to serve the existing population within Bognor and the villages.
With regard to flood risk, a mere glance at the Environment Agency website confirms significant flood risk along the Eastergate, Aldingbourne and Lidsey Rifes. A proposal has already been made to build 300 houses on the fields along the Eastergate Rife. The developer denies there would be a problem, yet the flood ‘protection’ measures are the same as have been used for the new development to the north of Felpham. Very recent history shows that the new development was indeed protected but the surrounding areas suffered unprecedented flooding.
Surely, Arun District Council should learn from its recent mistakes.
Eventually, Bognor Regis might receive an alternative route out along the A29, but at what cost? Worsened traffic chaos at the connecting roads, still no A27 bypass around Arundel, a strain on essential services and further increases in flood risk within Bognor itself as fields to the north currently acting as natural soakaways are concreted over.
I believe that the whole Draft Plan is fundamentally flawed and should be opposed not just by the communities of the villages but by residents of Bognor Regis too.