Localism ‘dead’ as dust settles on Fontwell homes decision

Four hundred homes will be built on Fontwell Meadows, east of Fontwell Avenue, Fontwell, after a public inquiry granted the planning application
Four hundred homes will be built on Fontwell Meadows, east of Fontwell Avenue, Fontwell, after a public inquiry granted the planning application

Controversial plans for 400 homes at Fontwell have been granted after a public inquiry, sparking outcry from parish councillors.

Eastergate Parish Council fought the plans for Fontwell Meadows at the three-day Government-led inquiry in November, arguing the development conflicted with its neighbourhood plan.

Hopes that neighbouring Walberton Parish Council would also object were dashed when it struck a deal with developers. It dropped its objection in return for changes to the plans, including the gifting of 11 acres of open space to the parish.

Renford Marsden, vice-chairman of Eastergate Parish Council, said he was ‘absolutely appalled by the decision’ and said drawing up the neighbourhood plan felt like ‘a waste of time’: “We are using our own time to help the community, and a decision like this does make it quite sad that we aren’t listened to.”

A decision letter from Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said Arun District Council’s inability to deliver enough homes for the next three years in a local plan trumped parish concerns.

Maureen Chaffe is the neighbourhood plan advisor who helped Eastergate put their plan together.

She said Arun’s lack of a three-year land supply was a ‘no-win situation for all of us’ and the decision showed Localism – the Government’s move to give more power to parish councils – was ‘dead’.

She said: “I’m not against housebuilding in the area, but we need to do it in a properly set-out local plan where the infraestructure is properly considered.

“There is this nibbling away by developers – 400 houses here, 500 there – but the villages aren’t getting the infraestructure they need.”

She felt Walberton were put in ‘an impossible situation’ and described it as a ‘shallow victory’ for them.

Suzanne Clark, chairman of Walberton Parish Council, said the deal with developers would benefit its residents and was ‘localism at work’.

Dandara is the company which will build the homes. A spokesman said: “Dandara are delighted with the Secretary of State’s decision to approve our planning application at Fontwell and we look forward to progressing the site very soon. We would like to thank Walberton Parish Council for their constructive approach and work to find an acceptable solution to accommodate much needed housing within the District. This has been a positive experience of how a local community and developer can work together through neighbourhood planning to address housing shortfall.