LETTERS: Don’t risk the character of a unique city

I was very interested to read in the Observer your report of the recent district council meeting where councillor Tony Dignum criticised the Chichester Society and me as its chairman for misleading the people of Chichester over the council’s draft local plan.

Councillor Dignum apparently invites me to ‘come into the real world’, in other words to accept the council’s local plan and its proposed excessive house-building numbers.

He suggests that by presenting a plan that is acceptable to government, we will avoid a ‘free for all’ by developers. I would maintain that with the house-building numbers as proposed in the plan, the difference between this and a ‘free for all’ is pretty marginal. Councillor Dignum made great play of his tenure as chairman of the Chichester Society.

So is this the same Tony Dignum, who as the society’s chairman, wrote in the society’s newsletter only two years ago, ‘We need to seize the opportunity to limit new housing presented by the coalition government’s planning policy and a new Local Development Framework (LDF), working with Chichester Residents’ Associations’ Co-ordinating Group (CRACG) and individual residents’ associations. We are hopeful that major development will not be proposed until the necessary infrastructure improvements have been put in place’?

Is this also the same Tony Dignum, who in opposing the County Council’s Structure Plan in 2002, wrote in the Chichester Society’s Newsletter, ‘The key argument the society has made against any substantial development around Chichester is that it will harm the character of our unique and beautiful city by changing its scale. Chichester is a special case. Therefore, instead of over-building, the government should declare it as an Area of Outstanding Urban Heritage, with special planning protections like an AONB’?

Chichester’s uniqueness derives from its character as a compact city. Increasing the city’s scale by extending its built-up area beyond the present lines will add, inevitably, to traffic volumes and the busyness of the city centre. In so doing it will threaten the character of the city. It would appear to me that since Councillor Dignum relinquished the chairmanship of the Chichester Society to become a district councillor, his position on these matters has changed. Some may consider this to be pragmatism, others may consider it rank hypocrisy. I couldn’t possibly comment. What I do know is that the Chichester Society has been unswerving in its opposition to house-building on the proposed scale, especially on greenfield sites such as Whitehouse Farm and Oldplace Farm.

Richard Childs


The Chichester Society