LARGE housing estates have been officially earmarked for Pagham and North Bersted.
The Conservative majority on Arun District Council decisively defeated a last minute bid by the Liberal Democrats to seek new sites for the 3,700 intended dwellings.
The 40-7 vote, with three abstentions, at Wednesday’s meeting of the full council was quickly followed by another of 42-4, with four abstentions, to back the inclusion of the proposed housing sites in the council’s local plan land use blueprint.
This means the areas in north and south Pagham, plus land north of Chalcraft Lane – officially called West Bersted – by Arun will be considered by a government planning inspector as being suitable for the large new developments.
Pagham (S) will be deemed suitable for 800 homes, Pagham (N) for 400 and West Bersted for 2,500.
Cllr Francis Oppler (LD, Orchard) said the areas should be removed from the council’s preferred strategic areas and councillors asked to consider new locations for the homes.
“Bognor Regis and that area north of Bognor can’t take any more residential development,” he told the meeting. “It’s not sustainable and you must remember it’s grade one agricultural land.
“For thousands of years, it’s been a wildlife habitat. We are going to destroy that habitat for all those creatures and we are going to destroy the quality of life for the residents in Bersted and the residents in Pagham – and that is not right.We need to look seriously again at greenfield and brownfield sites in the Ford area.”
Cllr Daniel Purchese (LD, Beach) said “There are areas like Ford which have not been properly considered. This is a sensible recommendation to go back and look at some of these sites again.”
Cllr Paul Wells (LD, Hotham) said: “New houses should come forward in villages which is acceptable to the villagers but the volume of housing which is being imposed here is going to cause absolute chaos for local people.”
But Arun’s leader, Cllr Gillian Brown, (C, Aldwick E) said: “This is totally irresponsible, even for the Liberal Democrats. I can’t believe it.
“Simply removing 3,700 houses from the list – you have got no evidence for this whatsoever. You are just delaying the plan and it’s just nonsense.”
Cllr Dudley Wensley (C, Angmering) said: “Where are they going to dump these 3,700 houses? Are they going to be dumped on Bognor Regis? Are they going to be dumped on Angmering?
“They are going to have to dump them somewhere because evidence shows we need these houses.”
Cllr Trevor Bence (C, Aldwick E)said the call for the sites to be changed meant a waste of the four years spent shaping the local plan.
“This is ridiculous. I can’t accept this. This is absolute lunacy,” he said.
The votes after almost 2.5 hours of debate watched by some ten members of the public mean the draft local plan will go out to consultation about its latest changes. That six-week period will start next month.
It will be followed by the resumption of the examination of its policies by a government planning inspector, Jonathan Bore, in the summer.
The plan sets out the evidence compiled by Arun to justify its selected sites to accommodate 1,000 homes a year for the 20-year life of the plan until 2031. Other strategic locations are at Barnham/Eastergate/Westergate (2,300 homes), Ford (1,500), Fontwell (400), Yapton (400) and Climping (300).
Further areas are at Angmering and the West Bank at Littlehampton. An initial site in Middleton has been shrunk in size because of flooding fears.
Arun’s director of place, Karl Roberts, pictured below left with fellow planning officer Neil Crowther, told councillors it was essential to have an agreed local plan which met government planning policies.
“Having no plan creates uncertainty and increases the risk of speculative development which may not have the required infrastructure,” he said.
Cllr Brown said: “Tonight is a time for looking forward, not back. This recommendation is very important for the council to make and however hard it is we have a responsibility as elected members for all of the district.
“This plan is based on evidence and requires significant infrastructure and we must accept no less than that.
“Cllr Oppler would make sure we have no control over any development in the district in the future.”
Cllr Dr James Walsh (LD, Beach) said the Tory members had ignored warnings by his group about delaying the local plan by acting as ‘Nimbys’ to try to protect certain areas.
Cllr Dawn Hall (C, Pagham) abstained in both votes. She said: “I believe the amount of housing in Pagham is too much. I accept we need to take our share of housing along with other areas.”
That was shown by the allocation by Pagham Parish Council of two locations, where 130 homes had recently been approved, with the support of residents.
“(Building) 1,200 houses will completely change the character of my village,” she said. “Pagham village is already congested and travelling to the A27 or the A259 via Chalcraft Lane can be very time-consuming and stressful.”
Pagham Road was congested because farm vehicles and large lorries headed for the businesses along and added to tourists’ cars each summer, she added.