The first of three outline applications for large housing development at Pagham has been approved.
The scheme, which was for access only to a site earmarked for up to 400 homes, was given the nod by Arun District Council on Wednesday (October 23).
If all goes as planned, the land south of Summer Lane and west of Pagham Road will also include a care home with up to 70 beds, land for a primary school, land for a scout hut and a local centre with 2,000sqm of floor space.
There has been extensive opposition to the applications, which could see almost 1,000 homes built, even though the land was earmarked for development in the Arun Local Plan.
Speaking against the application, Lilian Richardson, of Aldwick Parish Council, was one of several people to raise concerns about the suitability of Pagham Road to take the extra traffic.
She told the meeting that traffic on the narrow rural road could be almost brought to a halt by cyclists, buses and tractors as there was no room to overtake.
She added that, while understanding the need for housing in the Arun area, the parish was ‘totally opposed’ to the applications and felt there were ‘more sustainable sites’ for the developments.
It was pointed out that West Sussex County Council’s highways team had found no problem with the roads around the sites – a statement which was greeted with laughter from members and the public.
Chairman Richard Bower (Con, East Preston) told members there had been a ‘gross under-investment’ in the district’s infrastructure, adding : “For years and years I have been bashing my head against a brick wall trying to get the county council to change its attitude towards the roads in Arun.”
Other concerns raised during the meeting centred around the loss of agricultural land, the impact on wildlife, the strain on healthcare services and the ability of the area’s sewerage infrastructure to cope with the extra homes.
The overriding question, though, was whether a refusal for the application would stand up to an appeal.
John Charles (Con, Barnham) said: “The point of this is this is a strategic site that we as a council have already approved. We’ve approved the site as part of the local plan.
“Our job is to ensure the delivery of that site.”
His views were echoed by Philippa Bower (Con, Rustington West), who said: “Our local plan is only three months old. It has taken a long time and a lot of hard work.
“For our development control committee to go against the local plan at this stage when the local plan is so new would be, not only wrong, it would be pointless.
“The whole thing will go to appeal and we’ll lose because it is part of the development plan.”
Mrs Bower pointed out that the plan was only an outline application and there was plenty more work to be done.
The application was approved by seven votes to five with two abstentions.
A second application for up to 300 homes on land north of Hook Lane was discussed but not determined as the committee chairman suspended the meeting before a resolution could be reached and agreed.
The third application is for 280 homes north of Sefter Road.
Arun District Council confirmed the two remaining applications would be presented to the committee at a later date.