Jobs are on agenda

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Jobs, not housing, will be the focus across Bognor Regis over the next 16 years.

That was the strong message from Arun District Council’s members as they agreed to send its 340-plus page draft local plan for public comment.

At last Wednesday’s full special council meeting, Ricky Bower, the council’s planning supremo, said: “I believe that this local plan is above all a plan for economic growth, and not a plan for housing for housing’s sake.

“For the last ten years we have been building houses like there is no tomorrow, and we have lost sight of the need to boost economic growth in the district.”

He said action was essential to rectify the situation where wage rates in the district were the second lowest in 67 council areas in the south east.

“If we can boost economic growth, the job density can be improved and gross weekly wages can be improved. Arun also has the fourth lowest job density rate in the region, meaning that more people travel out of the district to their work than almost anywhere else in the south east, with fewer coming to work here, too,” he added.

Stephen Haymes, who chairs the local plan sub-committee, said the draft plan was ‘the most important document produced by this council for many years’.

There was strong cross-party backing from councillors for the document, with a unanimous vote to launch the seven-week consultation on July 19.

Liberal Democrat group leader Francis Oppler said his party totally backed the local plan – the blueprint for land use up to 2028. But he warned: “It will take partnership working across the widest possible range to achieve what is planned.”

Cllr Oppler said reducing the wealth gap between residents and upgrading roads was essential.

Roger Nash, Labour’s group leader, questioned whether building 400 homes a year would be enough to tackle Arun’s growing housing waiting list.

The plan puts forward two options for annual housebuilding: the council’s preferred target of 400 homes; and the 565 homes required by the south-east regional plan.