MP criticises Arun District Council over housing plans

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MP Nick Herbert has accused councillors of failing to take into account recent changes to Government planning guidance when they approved controversial strategic housing locations last week.

A local plan sub-committee meeting of the council, held on Thursday, voted to follow the officers’ recommendations for strategic locations to meet Arun’s housing supply shortfall.

Back in January, the full council decided to reconsider the housing locations following concerns over flooding in the areas proposed to be built on.

The review of locations was referred back to the sub-committee on Thursday evening.

Two of the recommendations by officers were for at least 2,060 houses in the Barnham/Eastergate/Westergate area, and 600 houses in Angmering – despite these being their original proposals.

West Bank, in Littlehampton, will be taken forward as an Area Action Plan, and therefore be subject to formal consultation and examination, but could ultimately deliver 1,000 homes.

Alternative sites, including at Bognor Regis and Ford, were rejected.

Mr Herbert campaigned to secure the new planning guidance, which enables authorities to bring forward local plans without having to identify contentious ‘strategic’ sites.

The guidance, published on March 6, also requires infrastructure constraints to be considered.

It also encourages brownfield development and clarifies the ‘duty to co-operate’, under which neighbouring councils are required to consult each other on their plans.

It also says authorities do not have to identify specific sites for the final years 11-15 of their plan.

Mr Herbert wrote to councillors before last week’s meeting, asking them to take full advantage of the revised planning guidance and reject unsustainable large scale housing proposals.

However, only a minority of local councillors voted against the plans, resulting in 10 votes to four in favour of each of the sites.

Voting against the recommendations were Cllr John Charles and Cllr Mrs Jean Goad, Barnham ward, Cllr Andy Cooper and Cllr Paul Bicknell, Angmering ward.

Nick Herbert said: “I am concerned that local councillors have failed to take into account new planning guidance. These hard-won changes were designed to help local authorities like Arun, who face infrastructure and delivery constraints to development and who need to get a plan in place with public support. I fear that an obsession with funding a contentious new A29 link road is driving this agenda and that serious objections to new housing are being swept aside. We face the creation of an unsustainable new town on green field land, merging villages while brownfield sites are ignored. I urge the full council to reverse this damaging decision and make use of the new guidance to bring forward a more realistic plan.”

Nick Herbert will be convening a meeting of parish council chairmen, local district councillors and the Villages Action Group so they can discuss next steps ahead of the planned full council meeting at the end of April.