WAR of words failed to stop plans for new homes in Walberton being approved.
Councillors clashed as the scheme at Barnfield House in Arundel Road was backed despite residents being opposed to its use for housing.
Some 50 villagers were threatened twice with being ejected from Arun District Council’s development control committee when they repeatedly heckled during the debate.
Walberton Parish Council chairman Suzanne Clarke warned the committee in the raucous meeting residents would view approval of the outline proposal for 22 homes very seriously.
She said: “This is the first challenge to our neighbourhood plan which the community spent three years working on and is very important to all our residents.
“You can try and thwart us but I suggest you think very carefully about your decision and show leadership…
“You should connect with your local residents, your voters who have told you in their neighbourhood plan where they want housing to be. Three thousand pairs of eyes of the residents of Walberton, Binsted and Fontwell are watching you today to see if you are listening to your electorate’s wishes.”
The applause which greeted her comments at last Thursday’s meeting were silenced by the committee’s chairman, Cllr Ricky Bower (C, East Preston). “We are restricted to a process that is governed by legislation and we, as a development control committee, do not take kindly to being threatened in a way I believe that public speaker was threatening to us.
“We have a job to do here and we have to see it through fairly and evenly. We also have to fit in with the government’s requests for housing in this district.”
Committee member Cllr Paul Wells (LD, Hotham) said: “We, as councillors, have to make decisions set by MPs in parliament. We are left with some difficult decisions to be made as we have said time and time again.
“For this committee to be threatened does not sit well with me. Some people need to go back to their MP and ask them what they are doing about this situation.”
Cllr Clarke’s fellow parish councillor, Edmund Camera-Cass, said: “To grant consent will be to deliberately poke your electorate in the eye.”
But the planning agent for the development, Michael Burrows, said the application by Patrick, Richard and Philip Jones should be approved.
The lack of five years of housing land supply in the district meant its location outside Walberton’s built-up area boundary was over-ruled by the need for development.
It had been identified in a recent study as suitable for development and was ready to be used. “It has got a low density appropriate for a site of this sort,” he said.
Arun planning officer Andrew Wood said: “It is considered that the proposal will support the local community by providing 22 new houses and flats including six affordable units to help meet future needs.”