Walberton residents demand services are protected

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A petition from Walberton residents has demanded local services should be protected.

The call for action was signed by 750 villagers and presented at Tuesday’s meeting of Arun District Council’s overview select committee.

Its members were asked to extend a policy designed to protect local shops to cover amenities such as pubs and post offices.

Karl Roberts, the council’s assistant director of planning services and housing strategy, told members a petition had been submitted by Walberton’s district councillor, Norman Dingemans on behalf of Walberton Parish Council.

Mr Roberts said: “The petition asks the council to consider preparing supplementary planning guidance on the changes of use of village amenities – to protect village shops, pubs and post offices.

“Currently parishes are producing neighbourhood plans and officers feel if individual parishes want to further protect their amenities they should do so in their neighbourhood plans rather than Arun taking a broad view.”

Mr Roberts told members the number of parishes producing neighbourhood plans was increasing weekly and work on the district council’s local plan blueprint for land use was progressing.

But the plan would not come into effect until 2013 because of the procedures needed before it becomes law.

Committee members agreed each parish or town should be invited to consider developing a policy on protecting local amenities when preparing neighbourhood plans.

They also noted the petitioners’ call for a list of community assets to be compiled should such a list become legally required.

Councillors insisted as well that the council’s local development framework subcommittee should consider modifying policy to broaden the protection of local amenities.

Cllr Mike Clayden said: “I am no planning expert but I think we should try to save as many local amenities as possible.

“We keep telling people not to use their cars to help the environment. Yet residents are left with no option but to travel to shops as many of their local ones have shut. We should be trying to protect local village life.”

Cllr Barbara Oakley said: “While I admire the efforts of this petition, we keep hearing about saving much loved shops and pubs. But if they were much loved surely they would be much used, and would not need to shut. If they have to be shut, how can they be much loved?”

Committee member Roger Nash said he was concerned about the delay in producing the local plan.

“We are in danger of having to wait two years and a lot could happen in that time. As previously suggested perhaps the best way forward would be to take this petition to the local development framework subcommittee,” he said.