Arun ‘set up to fail’ by Government through high housing targets

Residents protesting outside the Arun Civic Centre before the local plan was agreed last summer
Residents protesting outside the Arun Civic Centre before the local plan was agreed last summer

Arun has been ‘set up to fail’ by imposed housing targets that are not realistic or reasonable, according to several councillors.

The area’s requirement is for 1,000 new homes to be built a year and this was agreed in Arun District Council’s local plan adopted under the previous Tory administration in July 2018.

However figures show Arun is already falling behind and this means the area could be forced to find even more sites for housing than those already allocated.

This is because new Government guidance introduced sweeping changes on how authorities assess their housing need, measure past performance on housing delivery and calculate an adequate five-year housing land supply.

Net completions were 890 in 2015/16, 622 in 2016/17 and 704 in 2017/18.

Officers described how the local plan was adopted last summer the evidence base from 2017 showed they had a 5.3 year housing land supply, but now only have a 4.7 year supply.

This means the council has to apply a ‘presumption’ for planning decisions, it is more likely Arun will see speculative applications on sites that are less sustainable and refusals are more likely to go to appeal and succeed until a five-year housing land supply is retained.

At a planning policy sub-committee meting last Tuesday (June 18), officers said there were ‘positive signs’ to suggest they would be able to catch up.

Recent refusals of strategic sites such as the 300 homes off Hook Lane in Pagham were mentioned as a factor, as well as poor quality schemes that had stalled approvals, while market conditions were also cited as delaying submissions of applications and housing completions.

Last year’s result of the Government’s new housing delivery test saw Arun score 91 per cent. This measures performance of housing completions over the previous three years compared to targets.

Martin Lury, cabinet member for planning, labelled the test a ‘blunt instrument’ used by Government that did not reflect local variations.

He argued they were ‘being set up to fail’ and described how the area had never been close to building 1,000 homes a year.

Cllr Lury (LDem, Bersted) added: “I do not think we can buck the market. If they do not want to, then they will not develop.”

David Huntley (Ind, Pagham) said: “We are between a rock and a hard place. I’m absolutely horrified about the number of houses proposed.”

He pointed out how several years ago they had a draft local plan which had only 580 homes per year. He said: “That was far more realistic and reasonable. Why did we drift away from that and not push that through because we would not be in the bind that we are in now?

“We are set up to fail. We can’t possibly build these number of houses. It’s not reasonable.”

Ricky Bower (Con, East Preston), who was cabinet member for planning up until 2017, explained how that was an earlier iteration of the plan in 2006 and they were now in 2019.

In that time the objectively assessed housing need for Arun had ‘increased and increased and increased’.

He added: “It’s true that the developers in the Arun area have not been delivering the numbers we require or the Government requires.

“But it does not help when sites are put in the local plan as strategically deliverable but are refused by development control committee.”

Meanwhile Roger Elkins (Con, Ferring) raised concerns about the possibility of sites securing planning permission ‘through a backdoor’.

He added: “I think there is a risk of development where maybe we might not choose to have it.”