Developers pile pressure on Arun to up homes target

A public hearing, like the one pictured earlier this year, will discuss housebuilding

A public hearing, like the one pictured earlier this year, will discuss housebuilding

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THOUSANDS more homes could be on the agenda after developers told Arun District Council its housebuilding targets were ‘too low’.

The authority has consulted on a revised target of 758 homes per annum following the suspension of its local plan.

Ricky Bower

Ricky Bower

While many residents say the figure is too high, Arun’s director for planning and economic regneration, Karl Roberts told councillors last week that every developer argued the target was too low.

He said: “Developers all said 758 is too low and it should be even more - 821 seems to be a popular number that has been put forward.

“It could be lower and equally it could be higher and if it is higher, more sites have to be identified.”

The district was advised to suspend its local plan by government inspector Roy Foster in July, in order to investigate whether the council could accommodate higher housing numbers.

The 758 figure emerged from new demographic data, revealed after the local plan was submitted for public examination, with the plan target set at 641 homes per annum.

A public hearing will be held on January 14 to discuss what the target – known as the OAN (objectively assessed needs) – should be.

In official responses to the consultation, developer Dandara states 758 should be the ‘starting point’ but the ‘council must make it clear that the figure is not to be considered as the maximum or ‘ceiling’ and should be revised upwards’ to take into account the struggles of neighbouring authorities to meet their targets.

The Home Builders’ Federation make arguments for 820 per annum, while Barton Willmore say the latest projections lean towards a target of 821.

The latter highlights an estimated coastal shortfall of 30,000 homes over the next 20 years, with mention of 982 homes per annum a potential target to meet growth forecasts.

Meanwhile, Villages Action Group (VAG) chairman Mike Turner said: “VAG do not believe that such huge numbers are sustainable in this district, due to severe potential problems with groundwater and surface flooding and infrastructure concerns.”

While Arun remains without an adopted local plan, fears of speculative development remains.

The authority has only identified three and a half years’ worth of land for development. It must identify five years’ worth as a requirement.

Responding to a question from Lib Dem councillor Dr James Walsh at last week’s overview and scrutiny committee, Mr Roberts admitted the district was at potential risk of speculative applications.

“The government requires us to have at least five-years’ worth of land available and at this point in time we only have three and a half years’ worth available so that is a big tick in the box for speculative applications,” he said.

The housing supply issue reared its head at Arun’s development control committee last Wednesday, when councillors had little option but to approve controversial plans for 400 homes at Fontwell.

Officers told the committee ‘significant weight’ could be afforded to the fact 400 new homes would be provided at a time ‘when housing is required in the short to medium term’.

Councillors at the scrutiny committee considered a report on the history of the local plan, which noted a series of government changes which had hindered progress of the vital document.

Dr Walsh argued ‘ignoring officer advice’ was a key factor, however.

Mr Roberts said there was little Arun would have done differently in hindsight. The consequences were ‘difficult to predict’.

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‘DEVELOPERS INCABABLE OF KEEPING UP WITH DEMAND’

THE ABILITY of developers to deliver higher housing targets will be questioned by Arun District Council in January.

Director for planning and economic regeneration Karl Roberts told councillors last week developers in Arun may be unble to meet the targets – a view shared by cabinet member for planning and infrastructure Ricky Bower, who argued a lack of an adequate skills base would hinder building.

He said: “They can argue for the higher figures but if they can’t deliver them, what is the point? I went to a planning conference at the weekend and it is a common problem up and down the country. We have all got higher OANs and developers in each of these areas are incapable of delivering.”

A spokesman for the Home Builders’ Federation, countered this. He said: “Over the past two years the industry has significantly increased housebuilding and is gearing up to ensure it can meet housing demand. The industry has developed its supply chain and is recruiting tens of thousands of people to ensure it can deliver.”