Decision deferred on new access to 175-home Walberton development

A developer’s request to turn its emergency access for 175 homes into a main access route  has been deferred.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 12:37 pm
WEST SUSSEX: Decision deferred on new access to 175-home development

Vistry Homes Ltd’s plans for alternative access to the Avisford Grange development (WA/95/18/RE) were discussed by Arun District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday (October 27).

The plans would have seen the already approved emergency access, on Tye Lane, turned into the main access for the site and Avisford Park Road would instead be used for emergency access.

The developer wanted to make the change because of the ‘serious threat’ to the already constructed Yapton Lane access from the proposed Arundel Bypass grey route – which is yet to be approved.

Vistry Homes claims that, due to the uncertainty, ‘all activity on site had stopped’ between October 2020 and June 2021.

During the planning meeting, a representative of Vistry Homes South East said: “Should this be approved we will be available to immediately recommence on the development of new homes.

“This application is only due to the proposed grey route; purchasers and our affordable housing partner are not able to complete until the access is approved.”

He said that previous assurances from National Highways – which is implementing the proposed Arundel Bypass – about retaining access to Yapton Lane were not ‘legally binding’.

The Vistry Homes representative added that waiting for a decision on the Arundel Bypass route could ‘take many years’ and said the site ‘will not be built out further’ until there is certainty i.e. through approval of a new access route.

‘A lash up’

Planning committee members did not respond positively to these statements with Ricky Bower (Con, East Preston) saying they were being ‘hauled over a barrel’ and Hugh Coster (Ind, Aldwick East) called the plans ‘a lash up’.

“I think this planning authority is being hauled over a barrel, backed into a corner – whichever phrase you want to use,” Mr Bower said.

The Vistry Homes representative pointed out that the council does not have a five year housing land supply and said that not building out further could have an impact on this.

Mr Bower chose to ‘ignore’ this, saying: “This is only being used by the applicant because it sounds good doesn’t it?

“They’re responsible for the shortfall because they’re not building out – that is not down to us, that is down to them and their relationship with National Highways.

“The local planning authority is being played and I object to the local planning authority being played.”

David Edwards (Con, Felpham East) said the developer should have been aware that the Arundel Bypass was on the agenda.

He added: “This is purely commercial and I find that quite distasteful, I have to say.

“There’s nothing stopping these houses being built; the problem is they can’t sell them and therein lies the problem.”

Council officers said that the preferred route for the Arundel Bypass was not announced until October 2020 and that the developer could not have prepared for this.

Assurances ‘not legally binding’

Mr Coster said: “It seems to me that Vistry have had a letter of assurance, which of course they can’t rely on, but all they need to do is to approach National Highways for a legal assurance.”

Committee members decided to defer the decision to give Vistry Homes time to liaise with National Highways.

But council legal officers were not confident that this could take place.

They explained that National Highways may not be able to give legally binding assurances over access because this would be pre-empting a decision on the Arundel Bypass route (which is yet to go to a public inquiry).

Worries over traffic

More than 200 people, including Walberton Parish Council, objected to the plans due to concerns over increased traffic through the village and conservation area.

The parish council said it was looking into the possibility of a judicial review if the plans were approved.

A representative said: “Walberton Parish Council stands by its previous objections and concerns.

“I speak on behalf of all our residents but particularly the 227 who objected.

“The presence of the Yapton Lane access is infinitely preferable, already delivered, and guaranteed to be maintained.

“This application will cause tremendous damage to Walberton and Fontwell villages.”

The parish council representative countered claims that the site was not being built out, claiming that ‘work is ongoing’.

Despite concerns over traffic through Walberton, West Sussex County Council highways authority did not object to the new plan.

WSCC said that traffic predictions ‘would not result in a capacity or safety impact’.

The plans may come back to a later committee meeting.

More details can be found at the Arun planning portal using reference: WA/63/21/PL.