Government is passing the buck

Much space was rightly devoted in last weeks’ Gazette to the significant decision by Arun DC’s development control committee to refuse the proposed 300 new homes on prime agricultural land at Climping.

But the issues discussed are relevant to many other towns and villages both in Arun and elsewhere in West Sussex.

Local planning authorities have been placed in an impossible position by central government inflicting ever increasing housing targets on the most congested parts of our country.

Because of huge national population growth and the failure of successive governments to either control immigration or stimulate sufficient house building to keep up with it, they are passing the buck to local authorities to deal with the resulting problems but without providing the resources required to provide the improved infrastructure necessary to deal with them.

The outcome is situations like Climping where developers take advantage of a chaotic planning situation to promote their own schemes in fundamentally unsuitable locations.

In this case the proposal would almost double the size of a small village and destroy its rural ambience and character. There is no local demand for this housing, the local school is full and other public services like health care and social care are already overstretched.

And we can add to that the much vexed problems of traffic safety and congestion that we already see daily all along the strategic A27, and the consequent overloads on the A259. On the Littlehampton to Bognor Regis section of the A259 there are no proposals from West Sussex highways to deal with the many issues that already exist. They just don’t seem to recognise that there are very real problems here! Instead Arun DC has to rely on extracting funding from individual developers whose aim is, naturally enough, to minimise their contributions. It is a totally unsatisfactory situation.

There is no comprehensive plan in place to ensure that once the thousands of new homes now in the latest draft Local Plan are constructed the transport network, and all the other demands on infrastructure, will be properly addressed. County Structure Plans were curtailed by central government some years ago and we are told that our Neighbourhood Plan, approved only recently, is now out-of-date because of the latest housing targets!

What we are witnessing today here in Arun is nothing less than a breakdown of the planning system resulting in an entirely unsatisfactory site by site form of planning control.

The next planning inquiry into the Arun Local Plan is due later this month so it is up to all of us to lobby our locally elected representatives, and those who represent us in Parliament, to say that ‘enough is enough’ and we will not accept any more major development until there is a properly evaluated and funded plan to deal with the various impacts’.

Without this we will simply end up with a Local Plan which is effectively a golden charter for developers while the rest of us pay the price for years to come and witness the gradual destruction of an area only recently voted ‘The best County to Retire to’ in the UK.

Alan Lovell

Retired County Engineer and Surveyor

WSCC

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