DRAFT plans for 1,500 new homes to be developed on Ford Airfield have been drawn up and are set to be exhibited by Ford Parish Council during a meeting for parishioners at Yapton Village Hall on Saturday.
The proposals, awaiting parish residents’ approval, mark a doubling of an earlier draft neighbourhood plan according to which only around 700 homes would be constructed on the site.
In the original 700-homes plan the Ford planning group indicated a ‘wish list’ of infrastructure provisions, including a primary school, a doctor’s surgery and community buildings.
The earlier draft went forward for further consultation following support from Ford residents at a special meeting in March this year.
However, results from a survey conducted by the Ford Neighbourhood Plan Group released in November 2014 indicated that 94 per cent of local respondents agreed they wanted ‘no further large scale or excessive development’.
In 2009, the Government abandoned proposals to build a 5,000-home Eco-Town on the airfield after courting fierce opposition, including from MPs Nick Gibb (Littlehampton and Bognor Regis) and Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs).
But the revised proposals, which Ford Parish Council chairman Trevor Ford insisted are very much conditional on parishioners’ approval, fall well short of the houses demanded by the abandoned Eco-Town scheme.
Mr Ford was emphatic the plans were not an ‘Eco-Town in disguise.’
The reworking of the neighbourhood plan follows revisions to Arun District Council’s own local plan.
Arun raised its housing targets earlier this year from 580 new homes per annum to 641 a year amid criticism directed at the council’s supposedly insufficient level of housing provision.
In summer, an open letter signed by 159 residents called for two Arun councillors to resign, decrying the ‘spectacular failure’ of the council’s local plan.
The team in Ford responsible for the original neighbourhood plan reworked their proposals in the light of Arun’s revised housed targets, accommodating for the possibility they might be expected to take on a large portion of the extra homes.
A letter sent to parish residents said the decision to rework the proposals was based on the fact that “the development they (the neighbourhood plan team) had designed would be damaged by a later ‘add on’ of additional housing and it would be better to pre-empt and design for it.”
While Mr Ford described the new draft proposals as ‘fairly comprehensive plans’ he emphasised they would be put to parish residents before further conversations with Arun and neighbouring parishes such as Yapton.
“The time for wider consultation comes later,” he said, envisaging a referendum sometime in June.
But Vicky Newman, who was chairman of the now-disbanded Campaign Against Ford Eco-Town (CAFE) expressed fears this was a “quick and rather underhand way of Arun fulfilling its own (housing) quota under the guise of localism.”
She added: “the whole point of community plans are for communities to grow according to their own local vision.”
But, she said “a large proposal can bypass the usual planning channels and be dressed up as a neighbourhood plan without the same level of scrutiny and public consultation as sites which propose only 50 or 400 homes.”
The planning consultancy Barton Willmore, who were also involved in the abandoned Eco-Town scheme, have been responsible for drafting the neighbourhood plans.