Housing plans approval ‘a sad day for local democracy’

DM16152913a.jpg. Angmering parish councillors angry over overriding of neighbourhood plan by Arun District Council. Charman Susan Francis and L to R  Roger Phelon, Bill Evans, Steven Mountain, John Oldfield and Mike Hill-Smith. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-160811-133128008
DM16152913a.jpg. Angmering parish councillors angry over overriding of neighbourhood plan by Arun District Council. Charman Susan Francis and L to R Roger Phelon, Bill Evans, Steven Mountain, John Oldfield and Mike Hill-Smith. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-160811-133128008

Approval of housing plans overriding the wishes of residents represented a ‘sad day for local democracy’, a parish councillor claimed.

Arun District Council approved plans for nine homes in Angmering, despite the proposal conflicting with the parish’s neighbourhood plan – a legal document crafted by residents to shape the vision of their village.

It followed legal advice over the weight which should be given to neighbourhood plans, considering Arun’s own local plan is deemed out of date.

Speaking after the meeting last Wednesday, Angmering parish councillor Steven Mountain said: “It is a sad day for local democracy. It calls into question the viability of every neighbourhood plan that has been made in the district of Arun.”

Arun cannot meet its obligation to identify enough land to meet its housing demand over the next five years. Under planning law, this means local and neighbourhood plans must be deemed out of date, with the bar for developers gaining planning permission effectively lowered.

But an inquiry decision for Ford Lane, Yapton, cast doubt over the approach, as a Government inspector upheld the importance of the neighbourhood plan.

The decision is subject of legal challenge.

Councillors expressed concern they had not had sight of the full legal advice Arun sought, which arrived just hours before the development control committee met.

But a summary was provided by officers and councillors were repeatedly warned by chairman Jacqui Maconachie that failing to determine the plans could lead to an appeal by the developer.

A request to defer the plans was lost, with approval granted by eight votes to six.

Councillor Barbara Oakley said: “There is undoubtedly opening up an attitude of what the hell is the point of doing neighbourhood plans if they carry no weight at all?”

Councillor Ricky Bower said rulings were conflicting. He said he understood the parish’s concern but noted the local plan predicament.

Nine homes can now be built on land between New Place Bungalow and Arundel Road.