PASSIONATE residents of Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate clashed with developers today over the suitability of building at least 2,000 homes between the villages (Thursday, June 4).
Arguments for and against the development, expected to also deliver an A29 bypass, were heard during the final day of the first round of public examinations into the Arun Local Plan.
Residents are concerned the plans, which may be increased to 3,000 homes, would impinge on strategic gaps and were not deliverable.
“It seems just ridiculous that we can build houses on good quality land that we will never get back again,” said Nick Hughes, manager of Manor Farm, reflecting worries over the loss of quality agricultural land.
The hearing heard how villagers placed great importance on a ‘sense of place and a good strong community’, which the gap between settlements provided.
But Ian Johnson, speaking on behalf of the BEW consortium, countered concerns by claiming the development would create 100 hectares of open space.
He said: “The gap is greatly reduced through very large-scale nurseries and bits of development along the road, so it’s questionable if there’s a gap there anyway.”
Attention turned to the proposed A29 bypass, designed to prevent delays caused by the Woodgate level crossing.
Arun District Council and the developers are supportive of the bypass but residents believe millions of pounds could be saved simply by improving the crossing’s efficiency.
A study undertaken by the Stop the A29 Bypass group claimed barrier closures could last up to 14 minutes, causing miles of tailbacks.
Louise Beaton, who helped prepare the Aldingbourne neighbourhood plan, said the roads could not take increased traffic.
She said: “It’s not safe to have any more traffic on that road at all. 2,000 houses would not be safe, 3,000 impossible and no development is safe without a northern tie in. That cannot be argued at all. It is a matter of safety.”
Martin Beaton, chairman of Aldingbourne Parish Council, highlighted expected journey times between Barnham and the A27 would reduce by just 59 seconds, while the bypass would ‘split’ the community by routing through the middle of the development.
Questioning the deliverability of the scheme, he said: “If they’re (BEW) going to come to a meeting like this I think we need to see clear figures and evidence about the viability of the scheme.
“They’ve quite clearly not taken into account all the infrastructure costs and we as a community will be picking up some of the problems that arise without a clear business case and the costings to put in place the infrastructure with this development.”
The consortium said the plan was a ‘work in progress’ but the deliverability of the scheme was not questionable – a statement which drew indignation from the public gallery.
The public examinations are now over, with government inspector Roy Foster planning a procedural meeting next month to discuss the way forward with the council.
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