PROTESTS failed to stop sites for thousands of homes in Pagham and North Bersted being backed.
Opponents of the large developments sung Jerusalem before councillors met to approve the allocation of land, pictured above. The debate also provoked bitter exchanges between opposing political parties. Lib Dem councillor Martin Smith (Aldwick W) was shouted down after he claimed the area and its neighbours had been ‘screwed over’ by the council.
But the decision was made at 9pm on Wednesday by 38-6 votes, with one abstention, to adopt Arun District Council’s local plan.
The document sets out sites across the district for a variety of purposes – from employment to open space to leisure – until 2031.
It is the need to enable 20,000 homes to be built, peaking at more than 1,000 a year, that has provoked the objections in nearly 3,000 letters to the council.
Michael Warden, the chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Arun group, was among the 50 or so members of the public who attended the meeting. He said before the debate: “The approved local plan will not be in the general and best interests of the district’s people and will undoubtedly fail.
“The plan period only has 13 years to run until 2031, so a total expectation of 20,000 homes, which the government inspector said ‘should be treated as a minimum figure rather than a target’, indicating that more development will be needed, will certainly not be achieved, when controlled by developers building at a rate at which they can sell them.”
The inspector, Mark Dalkeyne, also admitted the housing would result in creating urban areas in the countryside on some of the best quality farmland.
“There will be the loss of our wildlife, birds, insects, flowers and fauna that will be destroyed,” said Mr Warden.
Arun’s bid to have a valid local plan to enable councillors to control the location of development dates back more than three years and has cost more than £2m.
Mr Dalkeyne headed the latest public inquiry between September 19 and 28 last year. He put forward 67 modifications to Arun’s draft version.
A total of 63 were backed by councillors last January to leave four to be agreed.
They were passed after a 70 minute debate to mean sites in Hook Lane, Sefter Road and off Pagham Road are earmarked for a total of 1,200 homes. The ‘west of Bersted’ site next to Chalcraft Lane is set to see 2,500 homes built.
The figure for the Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate area is 3,000 homes, which will lead to a flyover and new A29 to replace the Woodgate level crossing.
Cllr Francis Oppler (LD, Orchard) said: “Over the last 50 years, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton have taken the lion’s share of development. These two towns have been dumped on and it’s continuing tonight should this plan be approved.
“Bognor Regis and Littlehampton should no longer be regarded as the depositary of future housing developments. They have been at the forefront for way too long.”
Cllr Dr James Walsh (LD, Littlehampton Beach) said the development threatened to wreck residents’ quality of life.
“Other countries put in the infrastructure before they put in the houses, factories and everything else.The sum total of all the thousands of houses built in the district is they have clearly over-stretched our infrastructure to bursting point already.”
Cllr Ann Rapnik (UKIP, Bersted) said: “I am absolutely amazed the inspector said this was a sound plan. Well over 35 per cent of the development is going to be in Pagham North, Pagham South and ‘west of Bersted’. ”
But Cllr Ricky Bower (C, East Preston) said the £29m Felpham viaduct showed what could be achieved with money from developers. “If we have to have the housing, then it needs to be controlled with the infrastructure emanating from that to support it,” he said.
Cllr Gillian Brown (C, Aldwick E), the council’s leader, said: “We have to adopt the local plan to protect the area.
“In the planning process, we will insist all the infrastructure will need to be included in the proposals. If it is not, those applications will not be approved.
Arun cabinet member for planning, Cllr John Charles (C, Barnham), said failure to adopt the plan would leave the district at the mercy of developers.
“Every decision we have made has been based on evidence, not speculation,” he said. “The housing requirements meet the needs of our residents both now and in the future. This adds strength to the future regeneration and economic stability of our district for everyone.”