Parish fights major homes plan alone after neighbours’ agreement with developer

An aerial view of the Fontwell site, courtesy of Google Earth
An aerial view of the Fontwell site, courtesy of Google Earth
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A parish council is fighting major housing plans alone after its neighbours struck an agreement with developers.

Walberton Parish Council dropped its opposition to a proposal for up to 400 homes at Fontwell after landowners Fontwell Estates agreed to gift it a significant area of green space.

The agreement left neighbouring Eastergate Parish Council as the only body opposing the plans as a planning inquiry began today (Tuesday, November 1).

Suzanne Clark, chairman of Walberton Parish Council, said: “(The plans) would give parishioners more houses on one site than they would have wanted.

“However it does secure forever the approximately five hectares of open space to be transferred into the ownership of the parish council.”

Arun District Council resolved to approve the plans, for land east of Fontwell Avenue, last November.

But the application was called-in by the Government after a request by Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert.

It followed concerns the plans conflicted with policies in the Barnham and Eastergate neighbourhood plan – a legal document crafted by residents to shape the future of their villages.

Walberton initially supported the call-in – but is expected to tell the inquiry circumstances had since significantly changed.

Arun is likely to include the Fontwell site in its local plan as an area for a major housing development.

Walberton had also been unable to agree with Arun that part of the site should be deemed a local green space, as part of its own neighbourhood plan.

The parish took professional advice and was warned a future application would likely succeed.

The agreement, therefore, represented a compromise.

Fontwell Estates submitted revised masterplans to the inquiry, which included siting housing in an alternative position.

A legal agreement would see the open space transferred to the parish, with further contributions including provision for cycle paths and a play area improvements.

Arun supports the plans, with its barrister Gwion Lewis arguing perceived conflicts with the Barnham and Eastergate neighbourhood plan were ‘unarguable’.

He said the proposal would help reduce the severe shortage of housing across the district.

Christopher Katkowski QC, representing the applicant, said the development had significant benefits, including commercial space and providing a new home for business Global Technologies Racing.

The inquiry is expected to last three days.