Controversial Arun housing plans approved at full council meeting

Campaigners from Angmering, and from Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate, demonstrating outside Arun Civic Centre against large-scale housing developments
Campaigners from Angmering, and from Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate, demonstrating outside Arun Civic Centre against large-scale housing developments

COUNCILLORS approved controversial plans to build 580 homes a year in Arun as parts of its local plan at a full council meeting held last night (Wednesday, January 8).

But where those homes will go remains unclear, after the council voted to reconsider the areas previously earmarked for the new housing: Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate, Angmering, and West Bank, Littlehampton.

Public question time was extended by 15 to 30 minutes because of demand, and much of what was said by council cabinet members was met with jeers.

Ricky Bower, cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, told the meeting the council needed to adopt a local plan quickly to give it a firmer position to defend against speculative development.

But it was the number of homes being proposed, 580 per year, which proved divisive.

In the past, campaigners have argued the proposed housing numbers, based upon Arun’s projected need, are flawed.

MP Nick Herbert has also said Government guidance allows councils to build below their required housing need if they have insufficient infrastructure, among other reasons.

But Mr Bower said the Government’s Planning Inspectorate had told him it would expect housing targets in Arun similar to those proposed.

In the end, every councillor voted in favour of building 580 homes a year in Arun, prompting some audience members to make mocking chicken noises.

But for those expecting all of the local plan sub-committee recommendations to go through unchanged there was a slight twist.

Mr Bower said the recent bad weather meant it was necessary to reconsider the allocated sites.

Previously, the planning sub-committee had voted to build 2,060 homes in Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate, 600 homes in Angmering and 1,000 homes in West Bank, Littlehampton.

Mr Bower tabled an amendment to this recommendation, which meant the local plan sub-committee would have to reconsider all sites within the district.

The move prompted Francis Oppler, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Arun, to accuse Mr Bower of ‘ political cowardice’.

He said he believed Arun District Council had made the right decision before, and now it would be delayed.

He added: “I think it’s an act of political cowardice. You have failed the council and you have failed the district by doing this.”

While all areas will be reconsidered for housing at the next local plan sub-committee, several councillors said it was important for Ford to be among them.

In the past it has been dismissed because of a lack of infrastructure.

Ham ward councillor Tony Squires also said the new housing should be affordable.

He said because of the costs involved in developing the West Bank any homes built there would be ‘weekend flats’ for wealthy people, and thus it should br re-considered.

The amendment was approved, while a further amendment from Bersted councillor Simon McDougall to exclude the Eco Quarter of Bognor Regis from consideration was defeated.

The council also voted to use money from an original budget of £100,000 to pay for further research on the issue.

For the full story and full reaction from the meeting read the January 16 edition of the Littlehampton Gazette.