Controversial Arun housing target increases approved

Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852
Arun Civic Centre, Littlehampton ENGSUS00120130418113852

COUNCILLORS voted in favour of controversial house building increases across Arun tonight in an effort to ward-off a developer ‘feeding frenzy’.

Arun District Council’s local plan sub-committee approved plans to raise annual targets from 580 homes a year to 641 a year - 1,400 more than planned up until 2031.

The raised figure includes a potential extra 1,000 homes at Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate, in addition to the 2,000 already planned.

Leader Gill Brown said: “We are elected to make decisions, otherwise it is just going to be development by appeal and we’ve got to take control of the situation however reluctant we must be.”

The council was reviewing the targets in its local plan, due to be scrutinised by Government inspectors at the start of a three-day public hearing tomorrow.

The recommendation to up the figure came after a planning appeal in Hook Lane, Aldingbourne, last year, where developers argued Arun’s targets were considerably low, according to new demographic data.

Three options were proposed: leave any changes to a review (one), increase the figure (two) and scrap the plan and start again (three).

Councillors immediately dumped option three, stating it would waste over £1.5 million invested in the current plan, while both one and three would leave the council open to speculative developments.

Lib Dem leader and Orchard ward councillor Francis Oppler said: “We can’t act as a corporate ostrich because that will not defend us against the reality of the situation we are facing.

“For me, reluctantly, pragmatically, I think we have got to go for option two. If we stick with option one then I think it is going to be a feeding frenzy with developers and planning by appeal that we will have no defence over for the vast amount of land within Arun.”

Councillors voted through option two, which will require approval from full council.

But the two Barnham councillors, John Charles and Christopher Hughes, objected, stating the plans for their ward were ‘ludicrous’.

Mr Charles said: “I can’t support option two simply because I don’t want another 1,000 houses on my patch, if I am being honest. We can’t take another 1,000 houses in that area. It is obscene, apart from anything else, to even ask.”

The public examination will begin tomorrow at 10am at the Arun Civic Centre, in Maltravers Road, Littlehampton.

What is a local plan?

The local plan is the land use document which sets out the council’s vision for housing and commercial uses, and open spaces, until 2031.

It has to meet government housing targets and will be approved by planning inspector Roy Foster after he has chaired the examination.

The first stage of the examination will begin tomorrow, lasting until Thursday.

Developers and action groups, which are opposed to the extra building of houses in locations such as Barnham, Ford and Fontwell, will make representations.

The latest housing target figures include 700 extra homes in Ford and 400 east of the A29 at Fontwell, with some 10,000 houses planned to be built across Arun up until 2031.

Campaigner Sue Wallsgrove, representing Fontwell residents, said: “I’m horrified. It’s a priority habitat and it needs protecting. it’s an ecological disaster waiting to happen.”

Follow the Observer and Gazette websites and newspapers for updates and reaction from the examination.

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