Villagers’ criticism of ‘cynical’ 
new tactic

HOUSING campaigners have reacted with anger to a new group being formed.

Villages Action Group members say Arun is pre-empting a decision about permission being granted for the proposed 3,000 homes in Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate.

They are also worried the initial name of the council’s group –Villages Advisory Group – could cause confusion with their well-established organisation.

Villages Action Group vice-chairman Laurie Ward said: “It is premature to form such a group prior to the published outcomes of the examination in public of the Arun local plan.

“The parishes represent local residents from communities that bitterly oppose the local plan.

“Arun are attempting to demonstrate that they are able to deliver on their plan to the government inspector and using the parishes as tools in that process.

“It is another cynical Arun tactic...which demonstrates that our district council does not represent existing residents of the villages or the wider district.

“It has its eyes set on future residents currently residing outside of the Arun district, who will out-commute and be socially dislocated in this coastal plan urban sprawl.”

The Church Commissioners are seeking approval for 3,000 homes in the villages. They have sent details of the potential development to the inspector who will be in charge of the public examination into Arun’s land use blueprint in the next few months.

The Villages Action Group was further concerned Arun’s group included members of Aldingbourne, Barnham and Eastergate councils in closed meetings with potential developers, their agents and district council officers without residents being involved, said Mr Ward.

The choice of the VAG acronym could also cause confusion.

“If it is not intentional, then it is sloppy work that is likely to cause confusion during the local plan process,” he said.

Mike Turner, the group’s chairman, said: “As well as planning to use precious and valuable local farmland for housing, Arun have also attempted to use VAG’s name by inventing a new group or ‘quango’ committee called the Villages Advisory Group in order to progress the new town development.”

Ricky Bower, Arun’s cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, said: “An advisory group has been set up to provide a partnership between members and officers from Arun District Council, West Sussex County Council and local parish councils. There are also representatives from the NHS, Highways Agency, Network Rail and developers.

“The group will meet for the first time within the next few months. At this time, there is no agreed name for this group.

“I’m sure when the group meets for the first time an appropriate name can be agreed that causes no conflict with the Villages Action Group. We have already informed the Villages Action Group of this.”