ARUN District Council is considering compulsory purchase of land at Oldlands Farm north east of Bognor Regis – but will it be using taxpayers’ money to purchase a white elephant?
This land was originally designated for employment in the 2003 Local Plan. So far, not a single employer has turned up. Asda offered to kick-start an employment park here and were effectively ‘driven out of town’ by Arun District Council.
Modern employers expect to be located adjacent to the Strategic Road Network (in our case the A27). Is that why Respironics moved from Bersted to Tangmere – to be close to the A27? Oldlands Farm was available, but they chose Tangmere. Is that why Arun’s 2003 Local Plan has failed so spectacularly to attract employment interest for the Oldlands Farm site?
The role of a council should be to identify what it would take to attract potential employers and then to do all it can to create those circumstances. That includes identifying and working with willing landowners. No council can make employers settle in a location that is unattractive to them.
If it’s a choice between a business park adjacent to the A27 (Tangmere or possibly Ford, for instance) or a business park some very heavily-congested miles from the A27 – which will they choose?
It is looking increasingly as if Arun is planning large-scale housing development on the eastern side of the river and employment provision on the western side – the gridlock option perhaps? Do they really think that traffic will flow smoothly between Bognor Regis and Littlehampton? Do they really think that potential employers will be attracted by such an obvious increase in local traffic congestion?
The government turned down the Enterprise Zone proposals for this land (perhaps they thought it was too far from the A27?) – are we now witnessing a case of local politicians in denial? ... and using taxpayer funds to sate their denial?
Before Arun uses our money to purchase this land they must demonstrate, with hard evidence, and in public, that there is a clear commitment from potential employers. Otherwise they will be purchasing a white elephant!